retail news in context, analysis with attitude

From the Washington Post this morning:

"As news of promising progress on coronavirus vaccines have filled the headlines in recent weeks, labor lawyers say employers have been pressing one question in particular: Once approved, can they require employees to take it?"

The potential of imminent availability of a vaccine, the Post writes, has employers asking a series of questions:  "Can they require employees to take a vaccine? Should they offer incentives instead to encourage compliance? And what should they do if employees resist?"

The story says that "it will likely be months before anyone besides health care and other essential workers have access to the vaccine. On Tuesday, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health-care workers and long-term care residents and staff should get top priority for the vaccine.

"In the meantime, employers are waiting for specific guidance from federal agencies such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the CDC before setting corporate policies, employment lawyers say."

The thing that makes this vaccine different from other vaccines, the Post writes, is that "covid-19 vaccines are expected to first be available under an 'emergency use authorization' rather than a full FDA licensure."  This makes the vaccine potentially more problematic.

"Once a coronavirus vaccine receives formal government approval, employment lawyers say it’s more likely to be treated like the flu shot, which can be mandated, even if it’s currently rare outside the health care field," the Post writes.

One suggestion from the story:  "Offering employees incentives to get the vaccine may be more effective, some experts say. David Barron, an employment lawyer with Cozen O’Connor, said clients are already looking into how they can use wellness programs to reward employees who take the coronavirus vaccine with gift cards or discounts on health insurance premiums, much as they would with getting a flu shot or following other healthy habits."

KC's View:

As a matter of engendering comfort among customers, I think it will be important for stores, theaters, airlines, museums, restaurants and other venues to be able to reassure them that all employees have been vaccinated … and even, in the short term, only allow in customers who have been vaccinated.

This may mean, in terms of workers, some sort of incentive program to get some people over their trepidations.  But this is a public health crisis - one that killed close to three thousand people yesterday.

I think that the powers that be will have to tell the story in a compelling, persuasive way.  They'll have to make the case that being vaccinated is an act of patriotism that will allow the country to regain some sense of normality in terms of the economy and the culture and our personal relationships.  This cannot be taken for granted … the story has to be shaped and then told and told again and then told again.