The Biggest COVID-19 Vaccination Challenges Organizations Face Today (i4cp login required)

Productivity

As we move further into 2021, COVID-19 vaccinations continue
to challenge individuals and organizations, alike. 

Many business leaders are still struggling—or purposely
waiting—to make decisions about mandating vaccinations…or simply encouraging
them. And once a decision is made, what’s the next step? How is the strategy
best executed? 

At the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), we’re
conducting ongoing research to keep tabs on the constantly evolving choices and
challenges organizational leaders face when considering vaccination policies
and strategies.  

In our most recent survey on employee vaccination policies, Getting Employees Vaccinated,
we asked respondents to briefly tell us about their organizations’ biggest
challenges related to the COVID-19 vaccine

(take our March Getting Employees Vaccinated
survey now
and you’ll be the first to see the latest benchmarking results). 

Availability and access pose stumbling blocks

In the U.S. and elsewhere, thousands of people feel their
stress levels rise as they spend hours online (or on the phone) daily trying to
locate vaccination sites or add their names (or those of loved ones) to waiting
lists for the COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, business leaders confirm that the
greatest challenge for their organizations at present is availability of
vaccines and gaining access for their employees. 

Almost two-thirds of the 400+ survey participants took time
to write-in descriptions of their situations—30% of whom cited issues of
supply, availability, or access to the now-several vaccines approved for
emergency use in the U.S. and other locations. 

For many, access and availability are particularly complex
challenges because business operations and employees are scattered across
regions and countries worldwide. Rules and regulations in those areas vary,
too, adding another layer of challenges. In respondents’ words: 

  • We are a global firm and access to the vaccine varies
    dramatically by country and location. We need to be mindful of the varied laws
    and requirements. 
  • Access. We have workers in America who are impacted by the
    slow rollout, and we have workers in Canada who have virtually no access to a
    vaccine right now. 
  • Supply vs demand. We have team members located in every
    state across the U.S., so managing all the different local and state
    guidelines/eligibility for vaccine, which all vary, [is an issue]. State systems
    are slow/crashing and providers have to go back multiple times to try to
    confirm eligibility and sign up. 
  • The wide variety of approaches to vaccine deployment –
    country-by-country and state-by-state—makes it hard to create company-wide
    communications [and
    policies].

Employee attitudes are a concern for leaders, too

 Almost 20% of the organizational leaders who shared their
challenges with i4cp reported that employee resistance—or at least serious
concerns about the vaccine—raised problems for organizations, whether they
chose to mandate or simply encourage vaccinations for their workforces.

  • We haven’t surveyed many of our team members, but those we
    have are nervous about vaccination because of the lack of information on
    possible long-term side effects.
  • People are afraid to get the vaccination. There is not
    enough information or trust that the vaccine is safe.
  • Getting our employees to make educated decisions on taking
    the vaccine and not being totally influenced by social media and negative unsubstantiated
    information [is difficult].

While there was every indication in the data that
organizations are making sure that workers understand that vaccination
exception accommodations (for health concerns, religious objections, etc.) will
be made, leaders also voiced potential challenges associated with
non-vaccinated employees – and with keeping track of who has, or hasn’t,
received the vaccine. A couple of examples:

  • Getting all employees vaccinated … and dealing with
    employees who choose not to be vaccinated but want to come into the office.
  • We will not require vaccination, but finding out who has, who
    hasn’t, and when they got it will be critical to informing
    our return to work timeline and the precautions/rules we keep in place for those
    who wish to return. We’re looking to open an online form for employees to tell
    us their plans for vaccination, when they got it, etc.. but it is a touchy
    subject among leaders and we know some employees consider this sensitive
    information and do not want to share it with us. Navigating the right path is
    tricky.

 Other vaccine-related
challenges that surfaced through the research:

  • How
    to handle communications about vaccinations with employees effectively
  • Potential
    legal fallout from mandating vaccinations, complying with varied regulations
    across locations, privacy concerns, etc.
  • How
    to guarantee overall safety in organizational facilities (or in interactions
    with suppliers, customers, and others) when some workers refuse vaccinations
  • The
    potential for conflict between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees
  • Confusion
    and lack of guidance resulting from failure to create organizational policies that
    provide clear guidance vaccination-related issues

The survey results reflect
the fact that many business leaders are still working to make sense of chaotic
conditions and how to approach COVID-19 vaccinations for their workforces
thoughtfully, respectfully, legally, and—most of all–safely.

i4cp will continue to track the evolving strategies organizations are
applying. Our next vaccination-related survey is now
live—please take the short survey by March 23 and you’ll be the first to
receive the benchmarking results.

We hope you’ll visit the i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center to share your experiences and ideas as we all
strive to gain insights to make our workplaces—onsite, remote, or
otherwise—safe and productive in our COVID-challenged world.