According to preliminary research reported back in September, approximately 90% of the US population remains susceptible to the novel coronavirus. CDC Director Robert Redfield also said that to reach herd immunity (when enough of the population is immune to prevent outbreaks), immunity rates must reach 60-80%. For more information from this Senate hearing, check out this link. While this information isn’t surprising, businesses are trying to figure out their place in the vaccine flood expected in late December and into the beginning of 2021.
While it may be beneficial for citizens to get vaccinated, is it the employer’s place to get involved in such personal decisions? As we move forward into uncharted territory, the only precedent we have to look at is the yearly influenza vaccine. The only sector that mainly enforces vaccination for influenza is the healthcare sector. The ethics of requiring vaccinations will always be hotly debated, but we can discuss whether or not employers – not of the healthcare sector – should require this new COVID vaccine in the coming months.
A Perspective on the COVID-19 Vaccine
Alissa Kranz, an attorney in Tampa, FL, told SHRM: “Employees may decide that they no longer wish to work for an employer if they require vaccines. If they do reluctantly decide to receive the vaccine, there also may be distrust between the employer and the employees.” While you may have your employees’ best interests at heart, it may be better to promote information and education about COVID-19 and its prevention at your workplace. When you try to enforce a mandate of any kind, you should expect pushback and alienation from your employees.
Additionally, we only have very preliminary data on this vaccine’s side effects; it has been rushed – rightly so – into production, and companies wouldn’t want to be held responsible for potential harm or misinformation.
Possible Exemptions to a COVID Vaccine Mandate
If you are considering a COVID vaccine mandate, there will always be those who will be exempt from the requirement, either by religious beliefs or through disabilities. At this point, when considering herd immunity, the level of exemption may or may not make it irrelevant that you mandate vaccines anyway. Regardless of your stance on vaccination, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a vaccine mandate at your business will harm or benefit the vaccination rates across the nation. From a legal perspective, it would be more helpful to provide education and help your employees understand the importance of vaccination, especially during a pandemic.
Remember, employees are more than just workers – they are also family members and friends to those in the community they work with. Work is where they spend a fraction of their time, and they are also likely vested in the protection of their other connections. As an employer, you are responsible for keeping them safe while they are on the clock; encourage sick workers to stay home – don’t punish proactivity when it comes to everyone else’s health.