Workplace Vaccination Program

Workplace Vaccination Program

By providing information about COVID-19 vaccination and establishing supportive policies and practices, employers can help increase vaccine uptake among essential workers. Although COVID-19 vaccine supply is currently limited, it’s not too early to share clear, complete, and accurate messages, promote confidence in the decision to get vaccinated, and engage your employees in plans to address potential barriers to vaccination. Strong confidence in the vaccines within your workplace leads to more people getting vaccinated, which leads to fewer COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The information presented below can help employers prepare for vaccination either at the workplace or when vaccine becomes available in the community. CDC makes recommendations for who should get the vaccine first, then each state makes its own plan.

Potential benefits to employers:

Potential benefits to employees:

Potential benefits to employers:

  • Keep the workforce healthy by preventing employees from getting COVID-19
  • Reduce absences due to illness
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve morale

Potential benefits to employees:

  • Prevent COVID-19 illness
  • Reduce absences and doctor visits due to illness
  • Improve morale

Consider COVID-19 Vaccination Options for Your Employees

Implementing COVID-19 Vaccination in Your Community?

Resources are available to help you. The National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine shared a variety of materials and resources to help provide COVID-19 vaccine equitably, effectively, and quickly to as many people as possible in communities across the country.

Assess options for vaccinating your workforce. Options include:

  • On site at the workplace
    • Existing occupational health clinics
    • Employer-run temporary vaccination clinics
    • Mobile vaccination clinics brought to the workplace
  • Off site in the community
    • Mobile/temporary vaccination clinics set up at community locations (closed or open to the public)
    • Pharmacies enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program
    • Hospitals and healthcare provider offices
    • Federally qualified health centers and other community clinics

Consider a workplace vaccination program if you have:

  • A large number of workers on site with predictable schedules
  • Ability to enroll with your jurisdiction’s immunization program as a vaccination provider, including appropriately training staff, or engage an enrolled vaccination provider
  • A location with enough space to stand up a vaccination clinic while maintaining social distancing through the entire process, from screening to post-vaccination observation. See CDC guidance for temporary vaccination clinics for more detail.

Consider off site vaccination if you:

  • Are a small- or medium-sized organization that does not have the resources to host a vaccination clinic
  • Have mobile worker populations that frequently move from one job site to the next
  • Have workers with highly variable schedules
  • Have a majority of workers who would prefer vaccination in a community clinic rather than an employer-run clinic

Start Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines Now

Vaccine confidence is the trust that employees, their families, and providers have in:

  • Recommended vaccines
  • Providers who administer vaccines
  • Processes and policies that lead to vaccine development, licensure or authorization, manufacturing, and recommendations for use

Build vaccine confidence by making confidence visible in your workplace. Follow these steps:

  1. Encourage your leaders to be vaccine champions. These leaders should reflect the diversity of the workforce. Invite them to share with staff their personal reasons for getting vaccinated and remind staff why it’s important to be vaccinated.
  2. Communicate transparently to all workers about vaccination. See Key Things to Know, Frequently Asked Questions, and Myths and Facts for up-to-date information.
  3. Create a communication plan. Share key messages with staff through breakroom posters, emails, and other channels. Emphasize the benefits of protecting themselves, their families, co-workers, and community. This fact sheet is available in numerous languages.
  4. Provide regular updates on topics like the benefits, safety, side effects and effectiveness of vaccination; clearly communicate what is not known.
  5. Make visible the decision to get vaccinated and celebrate it! Provide stickers for workers to wear after vaccination and encourage them to post selfies on social media.

CDC created the COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers to help employers reinforce confidence in this important prevention tool. The toolkit includes frequently asked questions (FAQs) for employerspdf icon and FAQs for employeespdf icon.

Determine When Your Employees Can Be Vaccinated

  • CDC makes recommendations for who should get vaccinated first, then each state makes its own plan. Check state, city, and/or county health department websites for the latest information on phased implementation.
  • Determine the time frame (if available) when your employees will be eligible for vaccination. Some employees may be eligible in an earlier phase due to age, underlying medical condition, or some other criteria.
  • Employers operating in multiple states and counties should establish a vaccination committee and/or immunization champion. This committee or champion should monitor vaccination rollout across jurisdictions and notify workers when they are eligible. It may be helpful to make contact with the health department in each jurisdiction.

Best Practices

Whether vaccination is at the workplace or in the community, employers should:

  • Offer flexible, non-punitive sick leave options (e.g., paid sick leave) for employees with signs and symptoms after vaccination.
  • Allow time for vaccine confidence to grow. Workers who are hesitant at first may become more confident after seeing coworkers get vaccinated. Employers with an onsite clinic should offer more than one opportunity for vaccination. Mobile clinics can return to a worksite multiple times on a rotating schedule. Employers using community locations can provide supportive policies (e.g., paid leave, transportation support) for an extended period of time.
  • Ask organizations and individuals who are respected in employee communities to help you build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination On Site at the Workplace

  • The planning process for hosting a workplace COVID-19 vaccination program should include input from management, human resources, employees, and labor representatives, if present.
  • Employers considering implementing a workplace COVID-19 vaccination program should contact the health department in their jurisdiction for guidance.
  • Employers may want to engage a community vaccination provider/vendor. These providers typically deliver work site flu vaccination services and are expanding to provide COVID-19 vaccination. They have trained nursing staff available in all jurisdictions, can bill insurance for administration fees, and can report vaccine administration data to immunization registries.
  • Vaccination providers must prepare to monitor for and manage potential anaphylaxis after vaccination.
  • Workplace vaccination clinics must offer vaccination at no charge and during work hours.
  • Provide easy access to vaccination for all people working at the workplace, regardless of their status as a contractor or temporary employee.
  • See the National Institute of Health’s Key Elements of a Model Workplace Safety and Health COVID-19 Vaccination Programexternal icon.

Vaccination Off Site in the Community

If hosting a vaccination clinic at your workplace is not possible, consider other steps to encourage vaccination, listed below:

  • Allow employees to get vaccinated during work hours or take paid leave to get vaccinated at a community site.
  • Support transportation to off-site vaccination clinics, such as paying fares for taxis or ridesharing services, ensuring employees can maintain social distancing. Check with your health department(s) about potential assistance, such as a mobile clinic or transportation support.
  • Some jurisdictions have screening requirements to ensure that only those who are eligible are vaccinated. Be sure to let employees know what they will need to bring with them to be vaccinated (employee ID badge or name tag, voucher, etc.).
  • Post articles in company communications (e.g., newsletters, intranet, emails, portals) about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination, as well as how and where to get the vaccine in the community.
  • Educate and help workers who are eligible for vaccination make their appointments through available channels.
  • Make sure employees know COVID-19 vaccine is provided free of charge. They should not be asked to pay any fee, including a vaccine administration fee, and cannot be denied vaccine if they do not have insurance coverage. Providers may bill their insurance plan or program for the administration fee if they have insurance.
  • Identify other potential barriers unique to your workforce and implement policies and practices to address them.

Other Considerations

Sub-prioritization May Be Needed

Develop a plan to prioritize who gets vaccinated first if there is not enough vaccine supply for all workers eligible within a phase. Prioritization should be done according to risk, (such as job requirements), age, or underlying health condition, and not by work arrangement (i.e., employee vs. contractor). For example, an employer might prioritize workers who can’t maintain 6 feet of distance from others. See Sub-prioritization of Frontline and Other Essential Workers for more information.

Avoid Worker Shortages due to Vaccine Side Effects

Consider staggering employee vaccination to avoid worker shortages due to vaccine side effects.

Some employees may experience side effects, which are normal signs that their body is building protection. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Please note, some people have no side effects. For 2-dose vaccines, side effects are more frequent and severe following the second dose. At this time, we do not know how common these symptoms may be among employees. We expect that most employees who experience symptoms following vaccination will not need to miss work, but still encourage employers to provide flexible leave policies for those who may have post-vaccination symptoms. Please see post-vaccination considerations for workplaces for further information.

In addition, for employees who receive a 2-dose vaccine, staggering may be more important for the second dose, after which side effects are more frequent. To help ensure continuity of operations, facilities may consider staggering vaccination for employees in the same job category or who work in the same area of a facility. Staggering vaccination for employees may cause delays in vaccinating your staff, and the decision to stagger vaccination will need to be weighed against potential inconveniences that might reduce vaccine acceptance. Facilities should evaluate their specific situation when determining their best approach. Facilities that choose to stagger vaccine administration should also ensure all employees receive the recommended number of doses.

Vaccinations for Contractors and Temporary Employees

For workers employed by contract firms or temporary help agencies, the staffing agency and the host employer are joint employers and, therefore, both are responsible for providing and maintaining a safe work environment. The extent of the responsibilities the staffing agency and the host employer have will vary, depending on the workplace conditions, and should be described in their contract (Protecting Temporary Workerspdf icon).

If you plan to offer vaccination at your workplace, consider providing vaccination to all people working at the workplace, regardless of their status as a contract or temporary employee. What is most important is to encourage everyone at the work site to be vaccinated, no matter what their work arrangement is. If you do not plan to or are unable to offer work site vaccination, consider providing information to those at the workplace about how to explore options for vaccination in the community.

Reporting Requirements

CDC and FDA encourage the public to report possible side effects (called “adverse events”) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting Systemexternal icon. Employers can also encourage employees to enroll in a new smartphone-based tool called “v-safe.” CDC is implementing v-safe to check in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. When employees receive a vaccine, they should also receive a v-safe information sheet telling them how to enroll in v-safe. If they enroll, they will receive regular text messages directing them to surveys where they can report any problems or adverse reactions after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. CDC also provides recommendations for people who have had allergic reactions to other vaccines and for those with other types of allergies.

Vaccine Mandates & Exemptions

COVID-19 vaccines are not mandated under Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not mandate vaccination. However, whether a state, local government, or employer, for example, may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law.

Employer Vaccine Mandates and Proof of Vaccination

Whether an employer may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law. If an employer requires employees to provide proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or their own healthcare provider, the employer cannot mandate that the employee provide any medical information as part of the proof.

Employee Medical Conditions or Religious Beliefs Exemptions

Two types of exemptions can be implemented:

  • Medical exemptions
    Some people may be at risk for an adverse reaction because of an allergy to one of the vaccine components or a medical condition. This is referred to as a medical exemption.
  • Religious exemptions
    Some people may decline vaccination because of a religious belief. This is referred to as a religious exemption.

Employers offering vaccination to workers should keep a record of the offer to vaccinate and the employee’s decision to accept or decline vaccinationexternal icon.

Guidance on Exemptions

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidance on mandatory vaccination against H1N1 influenza. The EEOC guidance may be applicable to COVID-19 vaccination, which became available in December 2020.

For employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “…an employee may be entitled to an exemption based on an ADA disability that prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine.”

For employers covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship.”

“Generally, ADA-covered employers should consider simply encouraging employees to get the influenza vaccine rather than requiring them to take it.”

See question 13 for more information from the EEOC, available at Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Actexternal icon.

Reopening Your Workplace

Resuming Business Toolkit

Not sure whether you’re ready to resume business? Use CDC’s decision tools as a start.

After employees are fully vaccinated, they may be able to start doing some things they had stopped doing because of the pandemic. However, in work settings, even after employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine, they may still need to take steps to protect themselves and others in many situations. Employers should continue to follow the Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19. This includes wearing well-fitting masks, making sure employees are staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) apart from each other, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing hands often. The more contact the employees have with one another the more likely they are to be exposed to COVID-19. If other workplace health and safety measures, such as engineering controls (e.g., barrier protections), were installed, they need to remain in place.

It is important to conduct a thorough assessment of the workplace to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19. Widespread vaccination of employees can be one consideration for restarting operations and returning to the workplace. Other considerations for returning to the workplace include:

  1. The necessity for employees to physically return to the workplace and whether telework options can be continued
  2. Transmission of SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the community (how many infections there are and how fast it’s spreading)
  3. The ability of employees to practice social distancing and other prevention measures, like wearing masks, when in the workplace
  4. Local or state mandates for business closure restrictions