Employers’ guide to encouraging employee vaccination

As of April 9, 2021, all Missourians 12 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.
  • “COVID-19 symptoms are much worse than shortlived vaccine side effects.” Some are concerned about any side effects from the vaccine but it helps to emphasize that side effects will be far less disruptive/damaging than the effects of contracting COVID. Example: We would much rather you be out for a day or two to get a vaccine, rather than be out for much longer with COVID.
  • “Help prevent future shutdowns.” Getting vaccinated helps to reduce the levels of community spread and economic harm from COVID. Example: We can’t afford another widespread shutdown.
  • “Safely get back to the things you love.” We’re all tired of wearing masks and isolating! Example: Vaccinations can help us safely resume 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 — and even to attend some 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.
    • Allow employees to take a couple of paid hours off to get the vaccine and offer paid sick leave to those who experience side effects to help them recover.
    • If your workplace is at least 70% vaccinated, apply for an official COVID Stops Here designation. COVID Stops Here designations are tiered with workplaces able to apply for Gold (90% vaccinated), Silver (80% vaccinated) and Bronze (70% vaccinated) designations. Once approved, workplaces receive signage and a media kit to help promote their status to their community and encourage others to join them.
    • 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

    We’re sending you this message as the deadlier, more contagious Delta COVID-19 variant is surging.

    If Delta cases continue to rise unchecked, it could once again force widespread shutdowns — shutdowns we can’t afford. To avoid this scenario and protect the health of our community, we are urging all of our staff members to choose to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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

    We understand that some of you might be hesitant to receive the vaccine. It’s completely normal to have questions and concerns. 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.

    Here are some additional 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 want to make it as easy as possible for you to get vaccinated. Here are some ways [ORGANIZATION] will support employees who choose to get the vaccine:
    • _________________
    • _________________
    • _________________

    To reserve a vaccine appointment, you can use this easy signup tool.

    [ORGANIZATION] cares about you and your health. The Delta variant surge is a very real and urgent concern. Please consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine 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