By Kari Bray / Snohomish Health District
Employers play a crucial role in COVID-19 prevention and navigating our way out of this pandemic. One of the most effective ways to contribute right now is ensuring the Snohomish County workforce has information and access to COVID vaccination.
Starting April 15, all adults in Washington are eligible to be vaccinated. Here are four tips for helping your employees get their vaccine. This makes the workplace safer for them and for customers or clients, as well as helping reduce cases and severe illness so we can resume more activities.
1. Proactively share reliable information. There are a lot of rumors around COVID vaccines, but extensive studies as well as what we’re seeing with ongoing vaccination in the community indicate these vaccines are safe and effective. Employers can have a direct impact on reducing the spread of misinformation. Remember that you are a trusted resource for your staff and colleagues.
2. Make sure employees know their options for accessing appointments.
• Multiple mass vaccination sites are available in Snohomish County. Registration information is available at http://bit.ly/snocovaccine. When new appointments are posted, an update is shared to the Snohomish Health District and Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management social media pages. If your employees use social media, they can follow these pages on Twitter and Facebook (both Health District and Emergency Management) as well as Instagram (Health District).
• The Washington State Department of Health has an online vaccine locator tool that can help people find appointments near them, as well: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.
• Don’t forget your primary care provider or regular pharmacy – if employees haven’t already, they should consider checking out vaccination options through their normal healthcare providers, too. The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program is shipping vaccines directly to many local pharmacies, including Albertsons, Costco, Health Mart Pharmacies, Rite Aid, Kroger, and Walmart. For a full list of Federal Retail Pharmacy Program locations, visit www.vaccinefinder.org.
• For employees who are struggling to navigate online registration or find an appointment, or who need language assistance or other support, they can connect with the COVID-19 call center for Snohomish County at 425-339-5278. This call center is staffed 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and can register people over the phone.
3. Stay informed and consider what options will work best for your employees. The Washington State Department of Health has prepared a toolkit with more information for businesses and employers. You can check out those materials here: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/covid-19-vaccines-toolkit-businesses-and-employers
4. Allow time for your employees to get vaccinated so that it is not a financial hardship. While the vaccine itself is no cost to patients, worry about missing work and missing out on needed income can be a barrier. Allowing paid time for your employees to get their shots now will pay off in the long run. This helps keep your workforce healthy and reduces sick days, preventing loss of productivity due to staffing shortages. It can also improve morale and employee safety, as well as making customers feel safer and more comfortable in your place of business.
Having fully vaccinated employees also decreases the number of people who would need to quarantine if there were to be an exposure to COVID. If a fully vaccinated employee is identified as a close contact, they do not need to quarantine unless symptoms develop.
You can make the difference in whether an employee chooses to get vaccinated by ensuring they can do so without losing income or worrying about penalties for missing work – including if they need to take a day off after their first or second dose as they may feel unwell due to normal vaccine side effects like mild fever, fatigue or muscle aches. A day or two is significantly less time than an employee would miss if they became ill with COVID. You’re helping protect them, their families and their coworkers against hospitalization, long-term health complications or death due to this illness.
The Public Health Essentials! blog highlights the work of the Snohomish Health District and shares health-related information and tips.