As the vaccine rollout progresses through the early part of 2021, the broader employer response appears to be a bit more measured than some anticipated just a few short weeks ago.

While the path forward is looking a bit more clear, some employers are still struggling to determine an appropriate level of involvement in the vaccination process. Even those who want to take a more active role are filled with questions as far as how best to make that happen. And it’s a long list:

  • Is there a provider who will vaccinate all our employees?
  • How do we convince our employees to get vaccinated?
  • Who pays for the administration of the vaccine for employees not on our health plan?
  • Should we offer an incentive and, if so, what should that be?
  • Are we going to require proof of vaccination for return-to-work?

Employers have learned a lot over the past few weeks and the story, as well as each organization’s response, continues to evolve.

According to our January survey, 61% of employers were not planning to provide any incentive for members to get the vaccine, with another 25% undecided. Among most of those undecided, the idea of offering gift cards, PTO, or a bonus was still under consideration, but most were leaning toward not doing anything.

That leaves us with sixty to potentially eighty-five percent of employers treating the COVID-19 vaccine just like any other vaccine covered by their plan.

Indicating a good number of employers do hope to strongly influence employees, 44% plan to either encourage vaccinations through their own targeted communications or by arranging onsite administration by a vendor. While there is a clear desire for some level of action, 76% of all survey respondents had no intention of requiring proof of vaccination by any members of their workforce.

With the national vaccine rollout still a work in progress, only time will tell where things land from an employer or plan sponsor perspective. But with that said, at this juncture, the employer response from a health benefits perspective is really shaping up to be no different than it is for the annual flu. Which just leaves us with the not so simple issue of how we make sure coworkers and customers feel safe.