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Employers must be a part of America’s effort to get everyone vaccinated

May 25, 2021, 3:00 PM UTC
A medical staffer prepares a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine syringe in New York City on April 16, 2021.
Angela Weiss—AFP/Getty Images

Now that every American is eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, there’s a glimmer of light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. While supply is now much more available than earlier in the year, we’re already seeing a new bottleneck in the quest for community immunity—people who still need to get vaccinated. That’s where the business community, in partnership with public health officials, will play a pivotal role.

In the U.S., Fortune 500 companies employ more than 29 million people, and small businesses employ over 60 million. Employers are a highly trusted source of information and can play an essential role in reaching their employees with key messages around vaccines and protective measures. More than seven out of 10 Americans trust their employer to make the right decision about when it’s safe to return to the office, according to Morning Consult.

The business community should communicate to employees, and the broader communities where they operate, the importance of vaccination to help defeat the pandemic and lead the country toward a robust economic recovery. In fact, many corporations have already begun leveraging their reach to educate their teams. Sodexo is sharing information through its #GetTheFacts initiative. Other major employers and brands, including Marriott, Spotify, Starbucks, Target, and the Walt Disney Company, have developed comprehensive campaigns to share facts about vaccines.

Many businesses are planning to offer vaccinations at their office locations, which, in addition to providing convenient access to employees, will amplify existing vaccine education efforts.

But not all businesses have access to the same internal resources and expertise. To support employers of all shapes and sizes, the Health Action Alliance—a partnership between leading businesses (including Sodexo), communications, and public health organizations—is providing free resources to strengthen the business community’s response to COVID-19.

Businesses have the opportunity to support the communities where they live and work by making a concerted effort to engage and partner with organizations that reach traditionally underrepresented communities. Americans are looking to employers and brands they trust for information about the pandemic, and they expect businesses to help lead our country toward a stronger, healthier future.

Today, there remain a significant number of people who, for various reasons, are hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Businesses have a unique opportunity to help educate these individuals on this topic and help persuade them to get the shot. Therefore, it is imperative that business leaders continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as follow best practices like offering paid time off to receive the vaccine.

Employers must step up by spreading the message about the importance of vaccination, pushing back on misinformation, and getting employees and customers to follow proper public health guidance. The business community’s leadership will be critical not only in ending the pandemic, but also in bolstering the U.S. public health system, which has been underfunded and under-resourced for many years. 

It’s crucial that all businesses—large, small, and mid-sized—have access to the tools and resources needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, so we can all return to work safely. After all, public health is everybody’s business.

Judy Monroe is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. 

Zeta Smith is CEO of Sodexo North America’s seniors division.

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