More employers planning to encourage COVID-19 vaccines

More data is indicating that employers plan to encourage their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A new survey of employers conducted by the Midwest Business Group on Health finds that 71% of employers plan to provide employees with education about COVID-19 vaccines, while 56% plan to promote the vaccine to their workers.

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“Employers are putting their COVID-19 vaccine plans in place now and know that education is key, especially for those focused on getting and keeping their people at a physical worksite,” says Cheryl Larson, MBGH president and CEO.

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Experts say employers play a major role in encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help drive up immunity and get society back to normal. Some organizations are expected to go further to mandate the vaccine for workers, while others are relying on incentivizing workers to get them. Dollar General, for instance, just announced it is offering workers an extra four hours of pay for getting the vaccine. However, employers face a big challenge in the scores of employees who are skeptical and reluctant to get vaccinated. A recent Gallup survey finds that about one-third of Americans do not plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The distribution of COVID vaccines will be critical to getting back to business as usual,” Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, a nonprofit, purchaser-led organization that represents some 12,000 employers, told HRE recently. “Employers have a strong stake in ensuring the success of these public health efforts and can be a real ally in making it happen effectively.”

Related: HR’s next big job: Convincing employees to get COVID vaccines

The MBGH survey also finds that in addition to COVID-19 vaccine encouragement, other top health benefit priorities for employers in 2021 include ensuring employees are engaged in the programs offered and using benefits, along with COVID-19-related initiatives and chronic condition management.

Employers are increasingly worried about employees postponing screenings and other preventive care because of COVID-19, the survey reveals. Their top concerns about workers postponing care are: missing out on early diagnoses of conditions like cancer (cited by 27% of employers), poor management of current chronic conditions such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome (24%), increased risk for chronic diseases (22%), a spike in 2021 healthcare costs (16%) and decreased productivity and increased absenteeism (12%).

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“The drop in preventive screenings and vaccinations over the last year because of the pandemic is of significant concern and we anticipate a sharp rise in cancers, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions,” Larson says.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.