Employer vaccine requirements have increased worker vaccination rates by 35%, according to a report released September 29 by the National Safety Council (NSC) highlighting lessons learned from employer responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report collected data from a sample of 300 U.S.-based employers and 3,785 individuals in surveys and interviews conducted between June and August 2021.
“With so much attention on COVID-19 booster shots, let’s not lose sight of a key fact: 46% of the U.S. population has yet to achieve full vaccination status—which continues to compromise our collective safety,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine Martin said in a statement.
“The verdict is in: employer vaccine requirements work,” Martin continued. “NSC is focused on empowering businesses of all sizes to implement COVID-19 vaccination requirements in a way that supports vaccine equity, reduces health disparities and, ultimately, advances the nation’s progress on living safely with this virus.”
The NSC found that most workers do not want to return to in-person work settings. The report’s other key findings included:
- Workplace vaccine requirements are shown to be effective, and the majority of the U.S. workforce is in favor of them.
- Among the vaccinated, there is a ceiling for future protection without interventions or sufficient incentives: Approximately 13% to 15% of fully or partially vaccinated individuals will not become fully vaccinated by receiving a second dose of a two-course shot or remain fully vaccinated when booster shots are needed.
- Employment-related factors may contribute to higher COVID-19 rates and lower vaccination rates among people of color, who are more likely to work in frontline, essential worker positions, in which they are more likely to be exposed to individuals infected with COVID-19, tend to have less paid time off (PTO) from work for vaccinations, and are less likely to have employer-provided health insurance.
- Employers need to stay ahead of ongoing COVID-19 challenges as the pandemic continues, keeping track of and understanding the relative risks associated with COVID-19 variants, such as Delta and Mu.
The NSC continues to encourage employers to reduce in-person work as much as possible. Other recommendations for employers included implementing vaccination requirements for in-person work and frequent, regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of individuals who can’t or won’t get vaccinated; reducing barriers to access and promoting vaccine uptake by offering on-site vaccinations or providing PTO for vaccinations and booster shots; and encouraging employee discussion around emerging COVID-19 issues, such as boosters, variants, and evolving COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines.
President Joe Biden’s national COVID-19 strategy includes an anticipated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide weekly negative tests.
The NSC report is part of the group’s Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) initiative to help business owners navigate issues surrounding the return to the workplace following pandemic shutdowns.
The NSC is a safety advocacy and professional group focused on eliminating the leading causes of preventable death, injury, and impairment in the workplace and on roadways.