Widespread coronavirus vaccinations are not only the best way to keep people from dying, they will also help revive business and the economy. According to a recent Pew Research study, 60 percent of Americans say they would “definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine,” up 9 percentage points from 51 percent in September. Though the interest in the vaccine is good news, the question remains; is there is a way to get greater compliance? Can businesses, which have spent the past several years championing their social responsibility, require vaccination of employees and, perhaps, customers?
Why the Resistance?
There has been a tendency to paint anyone apprehensive of the vaccine as “against science,” but half of all Americans hardly constitute a fringe anti-vaxxer group. On the contrary, a dearth of scientific evidence is the basis for much of their skepticism.
No vaccine has ever been approved for mass inoculation as quickly as this one. That feat itself was only made possible by extraordinary exemptions on testing, including on human trials, by the FDA. Already, the virus has mutated to a form not seen before; no one knows if the approved vaccines will work against this new specter.
In very rare cases, those receiving the vaccine have experienced a severe allergic reaction. Since the rollout of the vaccine in mid-December, six severe allergic reactions to the vaccine have been reported in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is out of the 272,001 doses administered through Dec. 19. Even so, many are reluctant to be guinea pigs. They would rather wait for side effects to become known before exposing themselves—and their families—to the vaccine.
The Business Perspective
Strictly speaking, there is legal precedent for enforcing vaccination requirements. However, the question of public repercussions for your business is quite another. Australian airline Qantas suffered a quick and severe backlash in response to their “No Jab, No Fly” policy in November.
Demographics play a part, too. About half of the entire US population says it is willing to take the vaccine now but, among African Americans, the figure is just 25%. Are you going to be the company compelling minorities to obey your instructions? The racial optics aside, what would the consequences be if there is a mass adverse reaction? Or if a pregnant woman miscarries as a result?
Pharmaceutical companies are indemnified against claims but a self-imposed decision by your business is not. In the absence of a federal or state law, or even a guidance issued by an industry body at this juncture, don’t stick your neck out with a unilateral decision. There is nothing to be gained by alienating half your base and driving them to your competitors.
Amid the calls for unity that we hear nowadays, the answer seems to lead back to half the population that is in favor of a wait-and-see approach. Convey to your customers that you have adopted this measured stance.
A vaccination requirement may well come into effect when there is an adequate stock of vaccines for everyone. Until then, abide closely by every applicable state and federal guideline and law but don’t put your business at unnecessary risk.
If you would like to discuss this ongoing topic, please contact me today or follow me on LinkedIn and Facebook for updated information.