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Covid Vaccine Workplace

How to Do Employer-Operated Vaccinations

March 30, 2021
Make sure you are adhering to the agency’s and CDC workplace guidances.

The news is filled every day with wave after wave of reports about the progress we are making in getting the U.S. population vaccinated against COVID-19, and the trade press also has been filled with federal and state government pronouncements about how employers and individuals should proceed.

It seems like new vaccines are being announced each week, and as states and localities get a better handle on inoculating their citizens, more age groups are being granted that privilege. (Persuading those who are reluctant to get the jab to do so is another matter entirely). Employers definitely have an important role to play. “Employers are well-positioned to facilitate vaccine access and improve distribution efficiency,” explain attorneys Jennifer Geetter and Allyn Rosenberger of the McDermott Will & Emery law firm.

When it comes to the possibility of employers in some states using their facilities for vaccinating their workforce, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a guidance on how employers can organize and manage such a program.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the federal government if they couldn’t come up with a jaw-breaking acronym to describe these facilities, which in CDC terms are called Closed Points of Dispensing (CPODs).

The agency says a worksite program would be most appropriate for employers that have a large number of workers on predictable schedules. The employer also needs to be able to enroll in the program as a vaccination provider or engage an already enrolled vaccination provider. A major consideration is that there is enough space to operate a vaccination clinic that allows for social distancing.

If these criteria don’t apply, the CDC recommends an off-site vaccination program for small- or medium-sized employers with a mobile workforce on variable schedules, those that have workers with highly variable schedules, and where a majority of workers would prefer vaccination in a community clinic rather than an employer-run clinic.

For workers who are employed by contract firms or temporary staffing agencies, the agency and the host employer are considered to be joint employers and therefore both are responsible for providing and maintaining a safe work environment under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. The extent of the responsibilities borne by the staffing agency and the host employer will vary depending on the workplace conditions and should be described in their contract, according to the CDC.

“If you plan to offer vaccination at your workplace, consider providing vaccination to all people working at the workplace, regardless of their status as a contract or temporary employee,” the CDC recommends. “What is most important is to encourage everyone at the work site to be vaccinated, no matter what their work arrangement is. If you do not plan to or are unable to offer work site vaccination, consider providing information to those at the workplace about how to explore options for vaccination in the community.”

Overcoming Reluctance

When it comes to those workers who may be wary of getting the shot, the agency recommends taking a number of steps that can help build their confidence in the vaccine by making your confidence visible in the workplace. The CDC recommends:

  • Encourage company leaders to be vaccine champions. These leaders should reflect the diversity of the workforce. Invite them to share with staff their personal reasons for getting vaccinated and remind staff why it’s important to be vaccinated.
  • Communicate transparently to all workers about vaccination. Employers can reference CDC publications Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines, Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccination, and Myths and Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines for up-to-date information.
  • Create a communication plan. Share key messages with staff through breakroom posters, emails and other channels. Emphasize the benefits of workers protecting themselves, their families, co-workers and community. This useful fact sheet is available in many different languages.
  • Provide regular updates on topics like the benefits, safety, side effects and effectiveness of vaccination. Make sure to clearly communicate what it is that is not known as well.
  • Make visible the decision to get vaccinated and celebrate it. Provide stickers for workers to wear after vaccination and encourage them to post selfies on social media.

Employers should allow time for vaccine confidence to grow, the CDC adds. “Workers who are hesitant at first may become more confident after seeing coworkers get vaccinated,” it observes. Organizations and individuals who are respected within the employee community also can help to build confidence in the vaccine.

Employers with an onsite clinic should offer more than one opportunity for vaccination. Mobile clinics can return to a worksite multiple times on a rotating schedule. The CDC adds that employers using community locations can provide supportive policies, such as paid leave and transportation support, for an extended period of time.

However, there are two types of exemptions employers must accept: Medical exemptions where employees may be at risk for an adverse reaction because of an allergy to one of the vaccine components or a medical condition, and people who decline vaccination because of their religious beliefs.

Employers offering vaccination to workers should keep a record of the offers to vaccinate and the employee decisions to accept or decline vaccination to show that you are acting in accordance with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations.

How to Set It Up

Several options for employers that choose to operate an on-site vaccination program for obtaining necessary assistance include existing occupational health clinics, employer-run temporary vaccination clinics, and mobile vaccination clinics brought to the workplace.

Employers may want to engage a community vaccination provider/vendor, the CDC suggests. These providers typically deliver worksite flu vaccination services and are expanding to provide COVID-19 vaccination. They have trained nursing staff available in all jurisdictions, can bill insurance for administration fees, and can report vaccine administration data to immunization registries.

“Regardless of the model, the CDC advises employers to contact their local health department for guidance,” Geetter and Rosenberger point out, noting that many jurisdictions, such as Chicago, have already embraced the CPOD model and provide extensive information on their websites. The guidance also makes it clear that workplace vaccination clinics should solicit input from management, human resources, employees and labor representatives.

The CDC directs employers to the National Institute of Health’s Key Elements of a Model Workplace Safety and Health COVID-19 Vaccination Program, which advises employers to establish a formal vaccination planning committee with company and other appropriate stakeholders. This committee should monitor changes to vaccine eligibility in the relevant jurisdictions, document the vaccination plan, and communicate with employees about the program.

The CDC reminds employers that any on-site vaccination program should offer the vaccine to all workers, regardless of their status as a contractor or temporary employee. However, employers should consider staggering the employee vaccination schedule to avoid side effect-induced worker shortages.

Employers also must offer the vaccination at no charge during work hours and be prepared to monitor for and manage potential anaphylaxis after vaccination, the CDC stresses.

It suggests that employers develop a plan to prioritize who will receive the vaccine first if it turns out that there is not enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all eligible workers at once.

“This CDC guidance is a starting point for employers as they prepare to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake among their workforces; increasing vaccinations is critical to decreasing COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as to the successful reopening of businesses nationwide,” state Geetter and Rosenberger.

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