The decentralized distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the U.S. has left many unanswered questions for workforces, but employers can still take action.
Here are a few things employers can do as COVID-19 vaccines make their way across the country:
- Monitor Vaccination Progress by State
Doses of COVID-19 vaccines are allotted to states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on population. While the CDC has issued recommendations for prioritizing certain high-risk individuals to receive the vaccine before others, it is up to each state to determine who will be eligible for vaccination first.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases weekly reports on the number of doses the CDC sends to each state, but reports on the number of individuals actually receiving the vaccine are not updated as frequently by state and local public health officials. Johns Hopkins University, The Washington Post and The New York Times have been tracking the number of vaccines reaching states and the number of individuals who have been vaccinated (if data is available). Monitoring vaccination progress in the months to come will give employers an idea of how it’s impacting local markets and employees.
- Review COVID-19 Administrative Guidance
Special regulations apply during a public health emergency that affect how employers interact with employees. Employers should reference the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC), the CDC's General Business Frequently Asked Questions, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) page to ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines.
These resources give employers information on maintaining a safe work environment, what measures to take when an employee gets sick and what health information employers can request from their employees during a public health emergency.
- Consult with Legal and Regulatory Experts
Some employers may be considering company-wide, required vaccinations or inviting vaccinations to be administered at the office when they are more widely available. Identifying an appropriate in-house legal resource or outside counsel to explain administrative guidelines and legal implications of those efforts will help employers understand their responsibilities—and employee rights—related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Talk to a Benefits Consultant or Advisor
The federal government is paying drug manufacturers for the cost of the vaccine itself, but the onus on paying for administering the vaccine is largely on the health plan. Section 3203 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires employer-sponsored health plans to cover the costs of administering the vaccine with no cost-sharing for employees. Employers should ask their benefits advisor how the CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) may have impacted their employee health plan and how potential out-of-network reimbursement for providers administering the vaccine could impact total employee healthcare costs.
- Support Your Employees’ Mental Health
The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, but employers are uniquely positioned to offer reassurance to their employees—even when they don’t have all the answers. Employers that commit to destigmatizing anxiety, loneliness and burnout will yield workforces that are more resilient, fully engaged and happier.
For more updates on vaccines and other COVID-19-related topics, go to First Stop Health’s COVID-19 Resource Center.