by Amy McGahan

September 10, 2021

The combination of rising COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant and the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine led many companies and organizations to implement vaccine and/or testing requirements among their employees, even before President Biden’s federal mandate announced on Sept. 9.

Healthcare and education institutions have been leading the way, but many other organizations have joined them. In fact, according to the American Hospital Association, about 2,200 hospitals nationwide have announced some sort of mandatory vaccination policy as of Aug. 26. And, within hours of the FDA’s vaccine approval announcement, organizations including CVS, the State University of New York and the New York City school system announced vaccine mandates.

The number of U.S. companies already requiring a COVID-19 vaccine is growing with many big-name companies joining the list, including Anthem, AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and more.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 52 percent of workers are in favor of requiring vaccines, but a significant portion of the workforce – 29 percent – is strongly opposed; and there are certainly fervent opinions on both sides of the issue.

We are hearing from an increasing number of clients that they are putting vaccine mandates and/or testing requirements into place and are looking for help communicating the news to employees. If your organization is grappling with this topical and hot-button issue, here are some things to consider:

  • Consult your legal counsel. Legal experts have been cited as saying that companies are well within their rights to mandate vaccines and that employees who do not comply have little to no recourse, even for companies with under 100 employees. However, you should consult your legal counsel to be sure you are in lock step with government mandates and on any nuances that may apply to your organization.
  • Determine what your policy will be. Do you want to implement a termination policy for those who choose not to get vaccinated? Or will you mandate vaccines or regular testing options? Will you offer medical and religious exemptions? Or, instead of a mandate, will you offer incentives for employees to get vaccinated?
  • Ensure your messaging is clear and consistent. Be sure that your messaging is clear and that everyone communicating the policy is on the same page and using the same language. Anticipate questions you may receive and have answers ready to address them.
  • Consider internal and external audiences. While employees may be your number one audience, others may be interested in what you are requiring, especially if your company is customer-facing. Determine who your audiences are and the best channels to reach them – could be a press release, social posts, direct email, etc.
  • Monitor coverage and conversation about your company and industry. Utilize your monitoring tools to keep track of what is being said about your company, your peers and your industry and adjust messaging as necessary.

Regardless of what you decide to do, things have likely changed in the time that I wrote this blog post. Events are evolving rapidly, so it is important to keep as up to date as possible on current events and the latest changes in recommendations from local, state and national health departments. If you would like to discuss further, please email me at amcgahan@dix-eaton.com.