The National Safety Council applauds today's formal recommendation of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the CDC recommendations that prioritize distributing the vaccine first to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents, who need it most urgently. The efforts of our healthcare workers have saved millions of lives over the last year. They must be first in line for vaccines.
Today's news is welcome, as the vaccine provides an additional layer of relief for a country undone by the pandemic. To the 157 million people in the U.S. workforce, employers play a critical role in helping the American public understand the details of implementation and the benefits a vaccine brings. NSC implores the business community to proactively lean into this new challenge with their support and voice. In addition, we urge the healthcare sector and government agencies to work with employers as a point of distribution. That is where the employers' role begins – not where it ends.
Experts project that at least 60-70% of the population needs immunity, through either vaccination or previous exposure, in order to end the pandemic. While vaccines for various illnesses tend to elicit strong feelings on both sides, widespread support for the COVID-19 vaccine is critical – not just to the health of our population. Our economic recovery depends on it.
The vaccine alone is not a panacea for the disease; however, it is a salve for millions of unemployed, hundreds of thousands of small businesses, and every organization and individual impacted by the financial fallout of the coronavirus. The pervasive adoption of the vaccine will help facilitate hiring, reopening, and a return to some level of business normalcy – understanding that the future world of work has been altered forever.
When the pandemic began, employers found themselves without standard guidance for responding to this pandemic. They deserve a roadmap for handling the vaccine. We urge the federal government to work with the business community – both the private and public sectors – to develop universal guidance for employers to roll out education and distribution of the vaccine to employees. NSC stands ready to assist with this effort. Then, each organization must take that guidance and create a vaccine plan and strategy that includes:
- Employee education around the benefits of the vaccine and how to get it once it is widely available
- Opportunities for employees to get the vaccine once it is available based on allocation criteria
- Answers to questions about the legal rights of both employees and employers when it comes to requiring vaccines
- A plan for augmenting operations in a post-vaccine world
- An internal task force that will handle all vaccine-related issues for the company. This should be comprised of professionals from the HR, legal, health, and safety and communications departments.
It will take time for vaccines to be widely available. We cannot let our guard down. Employers must continue reinforcing proven COVID-19 safety precautions – encouraging face coverings, hand-washing, physical distancing, remote work for nonessential employees, testing, and contact tracing – to stop the spread.
As part of its SAFER effort, NSC has developed dozens of resources to help business leaders navigate the pandemic. NSC will continue to provide guidance for employers so they can safely and effectively implement vaccine strategies, and we will call on our vast network of partners – including those federal government agencies – to help us.
The approval of vaccines is groundbreaking. Worldwide strategies to distribute them should be just as innovative, with employers at the heart of the efforts.
About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America's leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway, and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.