Vitality and the Vaccine: A Response

January 20, 2021

Last Thursday, the New York Times published an article about the “all-out push” to get wary medical workers vaccinated. The article presented a look at healthcare workers who are anxious about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and are choosing to wait, while their employers are desperate for them to be vaccinated.

“Those opposing forces have spawned an unusual situation: In addition to educating their workers about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines, a growing number of employers are dangling incentives like cash, extra time off and even … gift cards for those who get inoculated, while in at least a few cases saying they will fire those who refuse.”

As the vaccine becomes accessible to the wider public, there is no doubt that this tension will present itself in other industries, if it hasn’t already begun to do so. Like many hospitals and long-term care facilities, other companies will face a host of questions about how to approach the vaccine:

  • Should we mandate that our employees be vaccinated?
  • Should we penalize employees who don’t want to be vaccinated?
  • How can we effectively educate and incentivize hesitant employees?

These are difficult questions that some companies will grapple with over the next few months and we’re here to help.

It’s our mission to protect people’s lives

Our mission is to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives. With more than 20 million members in 27 markets across the globe, we’re in a unique position to offer health improvement solutions. With such an extensive reach, we believe encouraging, educating, and incentivizing people to receive the vaccine is not only a means of fulfilling our mission, but our duty: one that will have a tremendous positive impact on public health.

To be clear, we know that the vaccine is not an end-all-be-all solution. It is one more layer of protection against COVID-19. However, when coupled with CDC-recommended precautions—wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor areas, and washing your hands—the vaccination can significantly aid in preventing the spread of the virus.

Educate and Incentivize

First and foremost, we are using all of our program tools and proven behavioral science principles to provide our members with education on the safety, efficacy and importance of the vaccination. We are rolling out a new COVID-19 vaccine goal to provide our members with the most up-to-date information and a path to vaccination. As a data-driven organization, we’re also surveying our members so we can better respond to their needs and concerns. Not only will this enable us to continue to push for the vaccine with empathy, but it will also help us identify information gaps and help us determine what information we need to provide to address people’s concerns.

When it comes to encouraging people to receive the vaccine, we believe in the carrot approach in the proverbial carrot vs. stick example. Incentives, not penalties, are the way forward.

Our health behavior team is actively working on a plan to provide Vitality members with incentives to get vaccinated. To kick things off, because we believe that receiving the vaccine is one of the most important things an individual can do for his or her health this year, we will award 250 Vitality points for each vaccination dose (for a total of 500 points) to those who receive them.

It will take some time for the vaccine to become accessible to every person who wants to receive it. As we wait, we will continue to implement our strategy for educating and incentivizing people to receive the vaccine. Please continue to our COVID-19 Resources page for up-to-date information and resources.

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