America’s vaccination campaign has lost momentum. The number of doses administered each day drops from an average of around 3.3 million in mid-April to 1.8 million on May 20. While 60 percent of the adult US population received at least one dose, there are still tens of millions of people left who have no protection against Covid-19.
There is no single explanation as to why these people were not vaccinated. Some may not have easy access to a vaccine. under no circumstances could others simply object to being shot.
Of particular note is one barrier, especially for the black and Hispanic populations hardest hit by the coronavirus: work. According to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a majority of unvaccinated Black and Hispanic adults said they were worried about being out of work, at much higher rates than their white counterparts.
Kaiser Family Foundation
But they can be convinced. In the same survey, a significant number of unvaccinated people said they would be willing to get a shot if their employer gave them time off for the shot, if their employer offered a cash bonus, or if their employer set up a vaccination clinic. Page? ˅. Hispanic Americans were particularly compelling.
Kaiser Family Foundation
So I asked myself, how much are companies actually doing to encourage their employees to get the Covid-19 vaccines? Much emphasis has been placed on whether companies can legally require their workers to get the shot, but in practice few large employers appear to be interested.
That’s why I decided to conduct an informal survey among the largest companies in the country. Some have started to be more proactive in urging their workers to be vaccinated, I learned.
The stick seems to be out. But carrots can also be useful, as the KFF survey shows. Big companies are starting to use them, but as of now it is far from universal.
What are America’s largest employers doing to encourage their workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine?
As vaccines became more widely available this spring, companies initially didn’t seem particularly interested in providing incentives for workers to get them, aside from general education and encouragement.
A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in late January and early February found that 88 percent of companies were either unwilling to incentivize their workers or were unsure whether they would. This could be due to a time when vaccine supplies were still scarce and vaccine politics felt more fragile.
“These people are mostly cautious and don’t want to get into the controversy if they don’t have to,” Gary Claxton, senior vice president at KFF, told me via email. “Until recently, I’m not sure if it was necessarily a business benefit to be able to say that all of your employees have been vaccinated and many have not been fully reopened.”
But that has changed. At the end of April, 59 percent of companies surveyed by Arizona State University said they were incentivizing employees to get the vaccine. The CDC’s new policy, which allows vaccinated people to largely stop wearing masks, should speed reopening and encourage companies to go further.
“There will be no one size fits all. It will depend on what industry you are in, how your industry is made up [worker] Population, ”said Magda Rusinowski, Vice President of the Business Group on Health. “I think the various forms of incentives will gradually increase.”
To get a better feel for the situation on the ground, I decided to interview 30 of the largest employers in the US to find out what they are actually doing to promote vaccinations. (I haven’t heard from all of them, but 18 responded.)
What I learned is that all of these big companies (UPS, Bank of America, Home Depot, PepsiCo, and others) are trying to educate their employees about the vaccines and give them paid vacation.
But more aggressive incentives – the juicier carrots – are still the exception. A handful of the companies listed below said they offer perks in addition to paid time off.
To be fair, the KFF survey would suggest that paid vacation is the best incentive. However, the same survey shows that other perks could be helpful in this “hands on deck” situation. Some large companies took more proactive approaches to encouraging their employees to get the vaccine:
Amazon set up vaccination clinics on site. Employees who provide proof of vaccination will receive a $ 80 bonus, and new hires will receive $ 100 if they are vaccinated. Albertsons, the grocery chain, pays $ 100 to employees who receive the vaccine. Target offers its employees free Lyft trips (up to $ 15 one way) to the vaccine on appointments (Lyft and Uber are in the process of offering similar incentives to all users) Raytheon is counting the Covid-19 vaccine as part of its employee Wellness program that offers rewards of up to $ 200 annually. Jabil, the manufacturing services giant, offers vaccines. Location at the headquarters in St. Petersburg AT & T set up 21 vaccination clinics on site for its employees and their family members
Kroger didn’t respond directly to me, but they were one of the first to start offering cash rewards for workers receiving the vaccine. Walmart does the same thing.
Different companies have different incentives to get their employees to get the vaccine. Public companies with a large number of hourly workers, who are most sensitive to both the risk of Covid-19 and the lack of working hours, are more aggressive, said Rusinowski. This would come from my own informal survey – although McDonald’s didn’t mention any incentives other than paid vacation in its response.
However, other companies are not under as much pressure to offer discounts on the vaccine. Pointing out the difficulty of tracking recipients of the vaccine, an IBM spokesperson noted that security precautions allowed many of their sites to reopen before the vaccines became widespread.
Just as vaccination is ultimately a personal choice, as some of these companies pointed out in their replies to me, companies will have the right to make their own decisions about how hard it is to get their employees to get a chance.
However, as vaccination rates slow in the US, companies can play a critical role in convincing their employees in the “wait and see” camp that incentives can move them. More and more employers are strengthening themselves. The pressure to protect their workers – and get business back to normal – is having an impact.