Employers’ guide to encouraging employee vaccination

As of April 9, 2021, all Missourians 16 and older are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccinations are the pathway to economic recovery.

Your role is crucial
With vaccine supply finally outpacing demand, a new challenge has arisen: How to inform hesitant Missourians and encourage them to get their shots. As a trusted source of information, employers can have a strong influence on their employees’ decisions to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It is vital for our state’s health and economic recovery that the business community does everything in its power to encourage vaccination.

The way we talk about vaccines matters
Studies show the most effective vaccine messaging comes from an attitude of listening, empathy and conversation. Acknowledge that the choice is still the individual’s; you are simply sharing the facts to help them make an informed decision.

Effective messaging angles

  • “Do Your Part”: Point out others who have already been vaccinated. An example message could be,Think of your coworkers, friends and family – they’re taking action.
  • “Do It For Them”: Vaccination isn’t just for you — it’s to make your whole community safer for the people you care about. Example: Protect your friends, family, and loved ones.
  • “Before It’s Too Late”: The vaccination effort is a race against new, more contagious virus variants. Time is of the essence! Example: We only have a short window of time to lower infection rates before more contagious variants of the virus become widespread.
  • “Get Back to the Things You Love.” We’re all tired of wearing masks and isolating! Example: Vaccinations can help us get back to the activities we love, spending time with family and friends, traveling and going to events.
  • “Vaccination is the safest way to build immunity.” Getting vaccinated is a much safer way to build protection than contracting COVID-19. Example: COVID-19 can have serious, long-term or life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get infected, you could spread the disease to friends, family and others around you.
  • “Freedom to Travel and Attend Events.” You should absolutely emphasize that the main benefit of getting vaccinated is to avoid getting sick and spreading a deadly illness. However, vaccination will also be a necessity for participation in some activities. Example: Vaccination may be required in the future for domestic or international travel — or possibly even to attend concerts or sporting events.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • DON’T start or engage in debates.
  • DO acknowledge that it is normal to have questions and concerns.
  • DO refer to the people behind the vaccine — use vocabulary like “the scientists”, “the health and medical experts”, and “the researchers.”
  • DON’T use vague, impersonal-sounding vocabulary like “the science” and “pharmaceutical companies.”
  • DON’T use judgmental language such as, “I can’t believe you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet!”
  • DO acknowledge that side effects are common. They are a normal sign that the body is building immunity and they should go away within a few days. It is NOT possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
  • DO make sure they know that the vaccine is free, even if they don’t have health insurance. The federal government is providing vaccines free of charge to everyone living in the U.S.
  • DO encourage them to talk to their healthcare provider. Everyone should be comfortable with their decisions and their doctor can help alleviate their worries.
  • DO keep it simple. If people are overwhelmed with too much messaging, it can lead to decision paralysis and make them less likely to get the shot. Provide concise, easily understood information about why, how and where to get vaccinated.

    Practical Action Steps

    Communicate what your organization’s specific commitment is to employees regarding vaccines. Example: [ORGANIZATION] is committed to helping you get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines. We also want to make it easy for you to get vaccinated. Here are some ways [ORGANIZATION] is planning to support you: ____. Then you can fill in the blank with the actions from below that you are taking, or any of your own ideas.

    • Lead by example. Have organization leaders in your organization show off their vaccine card or share why they’re planning to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Experts have found that employees seeing their leader(s) getting vaccinated in front of them at work is extremely effective in addressing vaccine hesitancy in the workplace.
    • Be flexible with your HR policies. Establish policies allowing employees to take a couple of paid hours off to get the vaccine and if possible, offer paid sick leave to those who experience side effects to help them recover.
    • Share Missouri’s vaccine website, which offers vaccine FAQs and vaccine appointment registration.
    • Host a vaccination event at your workplace to make it easy and convenient for employees to get vaccinated. Express interest in having a free clinic come to your workplace using this simple one-page form.
    • Use your organization’s social media to share your messaging
    • Bring up the subject in a staff meeting using some of the Conversation Starters in this guide.
    • Ask vaccinated employees to share their story with coworkers — why they got it, how simple the process is and how they’ve experienced no side effects beyond the typical few days.
    • Offer inoculated employees “Vaccinated!” stickers for their ID badges, or buttons that could be pinned to a shirt. People tend to like to do what their social circle is doing, and the visual reminder can help.
    • Distribute informational handouts for employees to take home and share with family.

    Conversation Starters

    • I thought we could start with a conversation about how everyone is feeling about vaccines, and what information you need to answer any questions. My role is to support you and help you find the answers you need.
    • Has anyone here gotten vaccinated and want to share your experience?
    • Is anyone especially excited or ready to get vaccinated? Why is that?
    • Is there anything I can do to make it easier for you to get vaccinated at your earliest opportunity?
    • For those of you still deciding, I have some information to share, and then let’s talk through your questions. I won’t be able to answer them all, but I’ll do my best to make sure you know where to get answers.
    • If there are any questions I can’t answer, I encourage you to ask your doctor or another healthcare professional.

    Example Communication

    Imagine everything finally going back to normal. Gathering indoors with all of your family and friends. Travelling freely. No more masks.

    Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines, that could soon be a reality — but only if we all do our part to protect ourselves and our family, friends and coworkers.

    Getting the vaccine is the number one way to keep you and your community safe. [ORGANIZATION] is committed to helping you get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines so you can make an informed decision about getting the vaccine.

    Each COVID-19 vaccine was rigorously reviewed and approved by a safety board and the FDA at every step of the creation process — the exact same process used to vet every other U.S. vaccine. Several of the best scientists and researchers in the world have proven that these vaccines are safe and extraordinarily effective.

    We understand that some of you might be hesitant to receive the vaccine. It’s completely normal to have questions and concerns. Here are some FAQs to help put your mind at ease. It includes answers to questions about the science process, side effects and many other common topics.

    We also want to make it as easy as possible for you to get vaccinated. Here are some ways [ORGANIZATION] will support you:
    • _________________
    • _________________
    • _________________

    Luckily, the vaccine is now widely available. To reserve a vaccine appointment, you can use this easy signup tool.

    We only have a short window of time to lower infection rates before more contagious variants of the virus become widespread. [ORGANIZATION] cares about you and your health. Please consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible to help keep you, your family and your community healthy and safe.



    Vaccine FAQs    State vaccine appointment navigator tool    Employer resources

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    Health Action Alliance
    de Beaumont Foundation
    Harvard Business Review