Vaccine Hesitancy Persists

With three COVID-19 vaccines on the market, retailers continue to navigate reluctance among their workforce to get the shots.

March 01, 2021

Hesitant Employee Gets Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine last week, paving the way for distribution of a third preventative treatment in the United States.

“The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. The vaccine is available for individuals 18 years of age and older.

Three vaccines are now available to combat a virus that’s killed more than half a million people and infected more than 28 million in the United States. On February 25, President Biden commented that “we’re halfway there: 50 million shots in just 37 days” in reference to his goal to have 100 million vaccinated Americans during the first 100 days of his presidency.

Even as more Americans receive vaccines, there is a very real concern in many communities around vaccine hesitancy and fears, which are genuine concerns that many employers continue to address. Vaccine hesitancy is often defined as a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.

FoodCoVNET, of which NACS is a stakeholder collaborator, hosted a webinar on vaccine challenges last week. Dr. Tara Smith of Kent State University shared the science behind the vaccines, noting that they are “basic” mRNA vaccines that help cells produce protein and trigger an immune response to fight the virus. She also shared five tips that could help employers ease vaccine hesitancy and fears among their workforce:  

  1. Listen and be empathetic. It’s understandable that people will have questions so be sure to provide good and trusted information. If you don’t know the answer, say so and follow up when you do.
  2. Have a centralized Q&A available that is regularly updated with accessible fact sheets.
  3. Designate a trusted individual whom employees can rely on for information.
  4. Don’t assume everyone has the same concerns.
  5. Include trusted community representatives, especially for people who have been historically marginalized or mistreated by the medical community

Dr. Andrew Binder of NC State University posed the question, “How do we go forward when we’ve been living in this pandemic situation for over a year?” First, know your audience, he said. How are they feeling about the pandemic and how is it affecting their lives? How much do they know about COVID-19 and what sources are they using to find more information? “Before you can address the threat, you need to address the negative emotions,” he said, suggesting employers can then shift the focus from managing negative emotions to embracing the idea of getting vaccinations.

Second, know yourself. “Be clear about what we’re trying to do. We’re acting as advocates, which involves being transparent,” Dr. Binder said. “Consider your objectives: Are you raising awareness and conveying competency?” He also shared communications resources that can help employers address vaccine hesitancy, such as Compass’ The Message Box. Last week the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, a group of more than 150 organizations, including NACS, launched the Count Me In campaign to help build confidence in authorized COVID-19 vaccines and motivate and inspire people to collectively fight the pandemic.

Count Me In provides individuals and organizations with tools to express their commitment to COVID-19 vaccination as communities across the country strive to reopen and return to normal. The campaign also encourages adults to share their stories about why they were vaccinated or why they are encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19, once vaccines are available to them. Individuals submit their story and photograph to be featured on the campaign’s online photo wall.

NACS Pandemic Assistance

As the vaccination process continues to roll out, convenience retailers can listen to tips and suggestions from NACS government relations and legal counsel experts in a special episode of Convenience Matters, “Vaccinating Essential Workers.”

Additionally, retailers who are looking for insights from legal counsel about COVID-19, vaccines and workers comp, should plan to attend the NACS Human Resources Forum, taking place live-virtually from March 9-11. Attendees can also participate in a session on “Leading Change in a Post-COVID World” with Mike Bucciero, vice president of HR transformation and business support at US Foods, where he will reflect on how change has impacted workplaces over the last year and shares tips on leading others through change to positively impact the business, influence leaders and support employees and the community.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, including information about how to educate employees about the vaccines and other vaccine-related human resources advice. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.