The CDC recently announced that children ages 5 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, now making 28 million children in the US eligible for the vaccine. While many parents are relieved at this news and are clamoring to make appointments for their kids, many polls suggest that vaccine hesitancy continues to be a problem, with approximately one-third of parents planning to “wait and see” how the vaccine is working before vaccinating their 5-11 year-olds.
Employers should have a vested interest in helping to get children vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to keep children from getting sick, which in turn reduces the amount of time parents need to take away from work to care for their children. The community transmission rate will also decrease with more vaccinated individuals, which is also beneficial for workplace health and safety and overall productivity.
Because employers provide healthcare benefits to employees and their families and have a vested interest in keeping their employees and their workplaces safe, they can play a critical role in helping to get their employees’ children vaccinated by considering the following three steps:
Keep Your Employees Informed
Many employers have been viewed as trusted resources throughout the pandemic and have shared educational information about how to keep employees and their families safe with their workers, such as Vitality’s “Stay Safe” and “Get Vaccinated” resources. Continuing to provide credible resources to staff about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines for kids will help keep employees informed so they can make the best decisions for their families. Employers might also consider directing employees to local vaccination sites offering appointments for children and reminding parents that vaccines are free of charge.
Offering paid time off for workers to accompany their children to vaccination appointments can help to ensure that all employees have the flexibility they need to avoid disparities in kids’ vaccination rates between those with parents who have access to paid time off and those who do not. Employers could also offer paid time off or flexible scheduling to allow parents to care for children experiencing side effects after the vaccine. Some employers may also consider hosting an on-site family vaccination clinic for added convenience to increase vaccination rates among employees and their eligible children.
While we have seen that mandates have been effective in getting workers vaccinated, we also know that incentives can be powerful motivators for behavior change. Employers could consider offering financial or other incentives for fully vaccinated families.
The pandemic has highlighted the fact that employees are more than just employees and we really do bring our full selves to work. With children and pets crashing video meetings, our roles outside of work have never been more obvious. Employers should seize the opportunity to demonstrate that they truly care about their employees as individuals beyond their roles as workers. And they can do so by making sure the millions of working parents have everything they need to get their children vaccinated and keep their families safe.
Lianne E. Jacobs, MPH, Health Communications Strategist, has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. She is the only indoor cycling instructor who can’t ride a bike. She enjoys traveling the world, laughing at her own jokes, and tricking her husband into eating baked goods made with hidden vegetables.