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A third of unvaccinated workers would rather get jabs than lose their jobs

September 28, 2021, 9:30 AM UTC

Even as some unvaccinated workers push back against vaccine requirements, mandates from employers and state and federal governments seem to be having a big impact on convincing vaccine holdouts to get the shot, according to a new report. 

About one in five people who were recently vaccinated got the shot because their employer required it, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly Vaccine Monitor, which surveyed 1,519 Americans. As many as one-third of unvaccinated workers surveyed said they’d definitely get the vaccine if an employer required it. 

That said, most unvaccinated people—56%—said they would opt for weekly testing if given the option. And one-third of people said they’d rather quit their jobs than get vaccinated if required by their employer. “There are some people who have dug in their heels about not getting vaccinated,” said Liz Hamel, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s vice president who oversees public opinion research. 

Before President Joe Biden issued an executive order this month, mandating businesses with 100 or more employees require vaccines or weekly testing of their workforce, many large employers, including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook had issued vaccine mandates. In August, Chicago-based United Airlines took a hard line: It did not give workers the testing option and instead mandated vaccines for its 67,000 employees. As of Monday,  the airline reported that 98.5% of its workers are now vaccinated.  

According to the report, most Americans—58%—support the new federal government mandate for larger employers, and 78% support the requirement that large employers offer workers paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from side effects. That said, there are wide divides along the political spectrum. At least 89% of Democrats support the federal mandate—but only 29% of Republicans do.

When considering how to handle mandates, employers may want to consider the vaccination rates of where their employees reside—and whether it’s a blue state or a red state, said Hamel. “Given the political divisions,” she said, “employers in red states will likely face pushback.”

Employers that choose to offer workers the option of testing in lieu of vaccines could face costly logistical challenges to test what could be thousands of employees each week, said Chuck Simikian, principal of Alliance HR Partners, an Orlando HR consultancy. Companies must pay hourly workers for the time they spend getting tested each week, and insurers don’t necessarily have to cover the costs of workplace COVID-19 tests—only those ordered by a doctor or when a person is directly exposed to COVID. “You’ll literally need a COVID champion inside your company to make this happen,” he said. 

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