Foundations of an Organizational COVID Vaccine Communication Plan

Your employees are talking about the vaccine. They’re talking about who wants it and who doesn’t, they’re sharing stories they’ve heard on the news and through the grapevine. They’re sharing information and making decisions with the data that they’ve got access to. Employers who are committed to maintaining safe workplaces, have an obligation to be one of the voices in these conversations – to be a source of reliable information and data. But how?

Develop An Internal Covid Response Team

This is a vital team of people within your organization that includes representatives from HR, operations, marketing and senior leadership. Together, this group can identify the which segments within your organization may need more access to up-to-date information about the vaccine options and how to deliver it to all employees.

What Information Should Be Communicated To Employees?

This is a volatile subject for people. There will be differing opinions on vaccines that are predicated on political, religious, medical, generational and ethnic grounds. You must be transparent about your decision to mandate, incent or just educate your staff about the vaccines using factual data from trusted resources. We recommend these three communication tips:

  • Focus on Facts | Factual data from unbiased, trusted sources (examples include CDC and Johns Hopkins)
  • Keep Your Language Neutral | Avoid references that imply a political or another subtext (Antivaxxer)
  • Be Transparent | Explain how the vaccine rollout will impact your business and be prepared to discuss why you are mandating or making it voluntary.

Be Prepared To Respond To Innoculation Concerns From Staff Members

The three main reasons that people give for not wanting to be vaccinated are:

  • Fear of adverse side effects
  • Lack of faith in the vaccine approval process (too quick to market, mistrust in government rollout)
  • Individual medical conditions, religious beliefs and diverse ethnic beliefs

There’s a wealth of information from reliable and trusted sources about the side effects from both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. In general, most of the data points to minimal side effects that include chills, soreness at the injection site and some fatigue that might last for 24 hours. This is important information to share with your employees. In the rare cases of more severe side effects, the medical professionals trained to administer the vaccines are prepared to assist should there be any issues.

With regard to the vaccine approval process, it’s essential to share that these vaccines did not ‘short cut’ the system but rather had the full force of the federal government behind them and these key mandates allowed a process that typically took years to be done in a matter of months.

To really understand the concerns of your staff, consider deploying staff survey. The four questions we’ve recommended for this survey are below. Participation in the survey takes the average employee under 2 minutes, but it provides an organization’s COVID Response Team with accurate data points about the information that employees need in order to achieve a safer workplace.

Sample Survey Questions

  • Based on what you know today, do you intend to get the COVID vaccine once it is available to you? (Yes, No, Not sure)
  • If you’re not sure, what are the factors you are considering before making a decision? (Side effects, more vaccine options, see how things go for the people already vaccinated, other)
  • If you are definitely NOT going to get the vaccine, can you share why and what your primary concerns are? (Open field)
  • What types of information related to vaccines would you be interested in learning more about? (vaccine efficacy, FDA approval process, side effects, where I can get a vaccine and my eligibility, open field)

Keep Communicating

As quickly (or slowly) as information about and availability of the vaccines seems to be adjusting will require this conversation be ongoing. Once you’ve gained survey responses, you’ll have a better view of which specific information your team needs more information about and what oppositions exist to inoculation within your workforce.

Your COVID Response Team will need to determine the cadence of messaging that best fits the needs of your organization. For some that may be weekly or bi-weekly communications. In certain workspaces, the urgency may require more frequent communications.

Don’t limit your vaccination communications to email. Emails are a great means for sharing links to reliable data sources, but they’re easily ignored. A variety of communication methods is recommended on this topic. Consider townhall meetings, company intranet news posts, notifications in paychecks, manager announcements at staff meetings and even consider video messaging. Invite company influencers into the plan to help them spread the word.