COVID-19 vaccine update: Answering your questions

Colorado is outpacing much of the country in administering the new COVID-19 vaccines, ranking 13th among all states in vaccines administered compared to population. Almost 8% of Coloradans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Some of your employees may be among them, or they may have already received both doses. With coronavirus cases across Colorado dropping, it would be easy to let your guard down. So even with the vaccine rolling out, workplaces must continue to take precautions to keep workers safe.

To assist you, we asked Pinnacol Senior Medical Director Tom Denberg, M.D., the most pressing questions regarding the vaccine and work reentry plans. The answers can help you protect your workforce as the pandemic continues.

Can I spread COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?

Scientists have debated whether vaccinated people can still transmit the coronavirus to others. In late March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the results of a study that indicate Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines significantly reduce the risk of transmission from vaccinated to unvaccinated people. ‍

“The risk of transmission is extremely low. As we continue to learn more, mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings is still recommended.”


Can I mandate that my employees get the COVID-19 vaccine?

“You can. The better question is probably whether you should.

“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued guidance confirming employers can mandate vaccination with qualified exceptions, similar to the annual flu vaccine. To do so, the employer has to show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a ‘significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others.’

“For employees who can’t get the vaccine, such as people with a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act or those with sincerely held religious beliefs, employers would need to provide accommodations, such as use of N95 masks, remote work, or Family and Medical Leave Act leave.”

 

Should I mandate that my employees get the COVID-19 vaccine?

“There also are reasons not to make vaccination mandatory. Your decision may come down to the nature of your industry. Do your employees deal daily with the public? Are they essential workers? If not, you may want to keep vaccination voluntary.

“While approved vaccines have been found to be safe, misinformation remains widespread. Mandatory vaccinations could impact workplace morale. Compelling employees to undergo vaccination too quickly may generate anger, anxiety and negative feelings toward employers.”

 

How can I fight misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine in the workplace?

“Consider amplifying public health messages about vaccine safety by sharing them in emails or on company social media feeds. Some employers even have shared pictures of themselves getting the vaccine to reassure employees.”

Can employees who have been working from home return to the office safely after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

“Most workplaces have changed their on-site operations to keep employees safe, and these measures should continue.

As more employees are asked (or required) to return to the workplace, the continued practicing of public health measures — e.g., mask-wearing, social distancing and plexiglass barriers for public-facing retail sales interactions — should be emphasized and should help alleviate at least some employee concerns." 

“The rollout of the vaccine will provide the greatest opportunity for return to work and, eventually, life as usual. As the pandemic wanes, a return to ‘normal life’ will naturally happen.”
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