With the final days of 2020 in sight, there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. With the discovery of an effective COVID-19 vaccination, the world must gear up for a new chapter in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. For employers, that means getting up-to-speed on the long-awaited vaccine and making a plan for how it will affect your workforce operations in the year ahead.
Let’s discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, its tentative timeline for distribution, and the opportunity you have as an hourly workforce employer to help secure public health, the economy, and your operation once more.
What We Know About the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine So Far
On December 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EAU) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. The success rate of the vaccine, along with assurances from the FDA that the known benefits outweigh the known and potential risks, hold the promise of altering the course of the pandemic and getting the world back on track. That said, the vaccine has not been FDA-approved for widespread inoculation
At this early stage, here’s what we know so far:
- The vaccine is administered as a series of two doses, three weeks apart and has a 95% effectiveness rate at preventing COVID-19 disease, according to its clinical trials.
- It remains unknown how long the vaccine will be effective for, as well as if it can prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between individuals.
- Known adverse side effects typically resolve themselves within a few days and include: pain at injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, join pain, fever, injection site swelling/redness, nausea, malaise, and lymphadenopathy.
- Employers do not currently have access to purchasing vaccines for employees. The federal government will purchase all supplies of the vaccine for widespread distribution in the coming months and should have limited cost to employers. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act mandated that all employer-sponsored health insurance provide coverage with no cost-share for a COVID vaccine.
- In terms of distribution, the vaccines will likely prioritize high-risk workers, first responders, elderly adults, and essential workers as dictated by the U.S. federal government.
- At present, there are no alternative vaccines available for prevention of COVID-19.
Timeline of Vaccine Distribution
Based on the timeline created by Human Resource Executive, here’s what to expect from the vaccinations timeline going forward:
- At Present: No vaccines are currently FDA-licensed or authorized for widespread use. They are only available through a clinical trial.
- Mid-December through spring 2021: At least one vaccine becomes available. The federal government buys it, distributes through local, state health departments. This will likely only initially be available to healthcare workers, first responders, and other high-risk individuals.
- Spring 2021 into the pandemic’s de-escalation: Multiple vaccines become available to all. Federal government continues buying them, and distributing through various health departments, as well as pharmacy wholesalers.
- Post-pandemic: Multiple vaccines are available and covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
How to Prepare Your Employees for Vaccinations in 2021
You’ve already spent the majority of the year navigating pandemic-related challenges. Unfortunately, there are still challenges on the horizon, even as major industries gain access to vaccines in 2021. One of the most anticipated hurtles? Getting your employees on board with getting vaccinated and preparing a plan ahead of time.
Here are some tips for getting your workforce on board with vaccinations (and the process that may come with it):
- Offer consistent safety data on the COVID-19 vaccine as it’s released.
- Break down the COVID-19 vaccination process so that employees know what to expect.
- Update employees on news related to the vaccination from credible sources.
- Offer insight into the risks of not receiving a vaccination in a variety of ways.
- Consider budgeting for and opening temporary, onsite stations for vaccinations.
- Roll COVID-19 vaccines into existing wellness programs/incentives in the new year.
- Let employees know that vaccines may become mandatory, why, and what the process will look like if an employee refuses to participate.
*Note: It may be prudent to avoid making vaccines mandatory and drastically altering your employee handbook policies until after the FDA gives its official FDA approval (licensure) to the vaccine.
HR Solutions for the Challenges Ahead
In order to emerge successfully in 2021, employers are spending more time than ever reviewing their benefit options and COVID-related safety plans for the new year. Is your workforce management system prepared to handle the administration and compliance challenges involved?
EPAY Systems offers a full Human Capital Management solution, including robust HR management, benefits administration, and an array of workforce management tools that make managing an hourly, distributed workforce easier than ever before—even during a global pandemic. Check out our COVID-19 Resources Center for more information, or request a demo of our HCM today!