Quick Start Guide to Vaccinating Essential Workers

Essential workers are prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, but jurisdictional vaccination programs may not have experience engaging with workers and employers. This 10-step guide is intended to help jurisdictions identify and quantify sub-populations of essential workers and create a specific plan to arrange locations, providers, and supplies to vaccinate them. A well-prepared plan can help you monitor progress and make changes as necessary. This guide also includes links to resources from CDC and trusted partners.

10 steps to vaccinate essential workers

1. Identify which group(s) of essential workers you want to target.

  • Start by considering which workers are part of current and upcoming vaccination phases and then further prioritize. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended vaccinating essential workers in 3 phases while vaccine supply is limited. Each phase identifies different groups of essential workers in order of their risk of exposure to COVID-19:
    • healthcare workers (Phase 1a)
    • frontline essential workers (Phase 1b)
    • and other essential workers (Phase 1c)

2. Estimate how many essential workers are in your jurisdiction.

  • Use existing data sets to develop estimates.
    • Review this map and accompanying data to find the approximate number of workers in each state by ACIP essential worker category. Change the filter to see your state. Note that these counts exclude self-employed workers and some other groups.
    • Estimated numbers of workers in broader industry categories are available by countyexternal icon from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

3. Connect with employers of essential workers.

4. Promote vaccine confidence among employers and workers.

5. Identify locations where essential workers can be vaccinated.

  • Use the decision treepdf icon in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdictions Operations Annexpdf icon to help identify locations to vaccinate essential workers. The best location may vary for across essential worker populations. Some options include:
    • Existing workplace clinics
    • Employer-run temporary vaccination clinics at the workplace
    • Mobile vaccination clinics
    • Temporary vaccination clinics set up at community location (closed or open to the public)
    • Pharmacies
    • Personal healthcare providers or community clinics
  • Consider providing more direct access to vaccination through on-site vaccination clinics in occupational settings or mobile vaccination units that travel within communities or rural areas for select essential worker populations who require more intense outreach

6. Identify appropriate vaccination providers.

  • Options beyond health department and pharmacy staff may include:
    • Company occupational/employee health staff
    • Local, non-company-based occupational health professionals
    • Healthcare personnel from community clinics/health systems/home health agencies
    • Volunteers/Medical Reserve Corpsexternal icon
    • EMS providers, as allowed by law

7. Consider important factors when implementing vaccination clinics.

    • If an employer chooses to run a vaccination clinic, they must enroll with their jurisdiction immunization program as a vaccination provider and must train staff appropriately or engage an enrolled vaccination provider. They must also have sufficient physical space to keep 6 feet of distance between workers during vaccination and during the observation period following vaccination. If an employer cannot offer COVID-19 vaccination on-site or does not have a suitable location for a vaccination clinic, they should encourage employees to seek COVID-19 vaccination in their community and provide them with information about where they can get vaccinated.
    • Include input from management, human resources, employees, and labor representatives, if present.
    • Also refer to the National Institute of Health’s Key Elements of a Model Workplace Safety and Health COVID-19 Vaccination Programexternal icon.

8. Provide a supportive environment for workers to get vaccinated.

  • Consider what documentation, if any, will be required to prove that a worker is part of the eligible essential worker population. Communicate this to employers in your area so workers know what to bring with them to their appointment. Examples include:
    • Self-attestation (honor system)
    • Voucher or letter from employer/pay stub
    • ID badge, name tag, or union card
    • Professional license
    • Letter or prescription from healthcare provider
  • Promote equitable access to vaccinespdf icon (for example, by setting up clinics near public transportation to overcome transportation barriers). Vaccination clinics should also offer convenient hours for eligible populations and be equipped to meet the needs of a wide variety of essential workers. This includes being able to communicate in languages other than English and providing educational materials tailored for different literacy levels.
  • Encourage employers to be flexible in their human resources policies—for example, by allowing employees to get vaccinated during work hours or offering paid leave for employees who seek COVID-19 vaccination in the community. Employers should consider offering flexible leave policies for those who may have post-vaccination symptoms. They are also encouraged to support transportation to off-site vaccination clinics.
  • Encourage employers to provide easy access to vaccination for all people working at the workplace, regardless of their status as a contract or temporary employee. Prioritization should be done according to risks, such as job requirements, age, or underlying health conditions. It should not be done by work arrangement, such as whether someone is an employee or a contractor. Encourage employers to stagger employee vaccination to avoid potential worker shortages due to vaccine side effects. Refer to CDC guidance on post-vaccination considerations for more details.
  • 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 on-site clinic should offer more than one opportunity for vaccination. Mobile clinics can return to a work site multiple times on a rotating schedule. Employers using community locations can provide supportive policies, such as paid leave or transportation support, for an extended period.

9. Monitor vaccine uptake.

  • Measure vaccine uptake by including questions about essential worker status/group in vaccination registration and/or reporting systems.
  • Track the percent of the target essential worker population(s) identified in Step 2 who register for, receive, or decline vaccination.

10. Evaluate your processes and make needed changes.

  • Conduct training, site visits, and other oversight measures to maintain or improve vaccination providers’ adherence to jurisdiction requirements (refer to COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdictions Operations Annexpdf icon). Site visits, in particular, are key opportunities to further develop and strengthen relationships with enrolled vaccination providers.
  • Invite feedback from key partners and create opportunities for jurisdiction staff to reflect on current processes and discuss how they might be improved. Identify barriers to implementation, including vaccine hesitancy, and take specific actions to address each one.
Page last reviewed: April 15, 2021