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Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived, many businesses and communities believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, this may not be the case as a surprisingly large number of eligible Americans are refusing to get vaccinated. At the end of 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that 20% to 40% of frontline healthcare workers in L.A. country who were offered the COVID-19 vaccine had declined the opportunity. The C.D.C. has made it clear that the vaccine is safe for anyone who hasn’t had an allergic reaction to any of its ingredients. Still, thousands of Americans across the country are passing on the opportunity to protect themselves and contribute to herd immunity.

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge that modern healthcare organizations and schools have ever faced. The second greatest challenge is convincing our people to get vaccinated. There are demographic trends that follow vaccine hesitancy and these are important to understand as we continue working towards getting our employees vaccinated:

  1. Vaccine-eligible Americans making under $50,000-per-year are three times more likely to decline the vaccine than those making $200,000-per-year or more.
  2. Healthcare workers who have not graduated high school report 29% would never get vaccinated and 22% would wait until most people they knew had been vaccinated. Only 9% of healthcare professionals who completed graduate school have outright refused the vaccine and 10% say that they’re waiting.
  3. Minority groups make up about 40% of all healthcare workers in the United States and only 14% of African Americans and 34% of Latinos trust that the vaccine is safe. 

How do we address vaccine hesitancy?

Many experts were optimistic that healthcare workers would be more likely than the general public to receive the vaccine because of their exposure to the pandemic since its inception. Overall, 29% of healthcare workers express hesitancy to receive the vaccine – surprisingly, this is 2% higher than non-healthcare workers. How do we address vaccine hesitancy?

Whitney Robinson, an epidemiologist at the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina notes that organizations need to be cautious and tactful in approaching vaccine-hesitant employees. Trying to combat resistance with “you’re wrong”, doesn’t seem to work. “It’s a delicate thing”, says Robinson. The most vital step is to understand where people are coming from. Here are six keys to success in getting your employees vaccinated:

  1. Have community and public leaders endorse the vaccine. 
  2. Frame vaccination as a “public act” that benefits others – team effort.
  3. Make getting the vaccine free and registration easy.
  4. Give people early access to the vaccine if they sign up early.
  5. Eventually make vaccination a requirement for entry, such as to schools, workplaces, restaurants, gyms, airplanes, etc.
  6. Be transparent about potential side effects (big and small) to engender trust.

Many healthcare workers are skeptical to hear from doctors within their own organization. This is an opportunity to reach out to one of your strategic partners, and see if you can find an external M.D. who is willing to meet with some of your employees and answer questions about their vaccine hesitancy. This further promotes transparency and understanding.

The best strategy is using the information and science that we have to help meet people where they are, and to support them to feel comfortable getting the vaccine. “We just need to get ahead of it. So much of the response has been reactionary when it comes to COVID-19. I just hope we can break that cycle,” says Robinson.

Spyglass Solutions believes in supporting our local communities to achieve herd immunity from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are interested in doing anything we can to support organizations and their employees to get vaccinated. If you need an external opinion or to connect with a doctor to discuss the vaccine with your employees, please contact us at 610-799-7400 or Info@SpyglassSolutions.org.