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Updated: March 17, 2022
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Communications Guidance for Businesses

This document provides general guidance for employers to plan and communicate about COVID-19 vaccine requirements to workers, customers and the media. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so you should be prepared to customize outreach for groups with unique needs and questions. To help you get started, we’ve also prepared key messages, audience insights and guidance for responding to sensitive questions.

Four Key Steps to Planning and Communication

All vaccine requirements need thoughtful planning and communication. Here are four essential steps: 

1. Gather Employee Feedback
Use surveys or focus groups, and one-on-one or small-group discussions, to hear directly from employees. Think about everyone you are trying to reach within the organization, as well as their varying levels of understanding (and enthusiasm for or concerns about) COVID-19 vaccines. And be sure to engage workers representing communities that have been most affected by COVID-19. Organize vaccine education and listening sessions with employee resource group (ERG) leaders to better understand their unique needs and concerns. Our resources and workshops can help.
2.  Anticipate questions.
Employers implementing vaccine requirements will need to answer a number of logistical and equity questions:
3.  Offer a compelling rationale that reinforces your commitment to health and safety.
Here are specific tips to include in a CEO letter you should send to employees and workers:
4.  Expect questions, listen and provide a mechanism for employee feedback.
It is normal (and expected) for your employees and workers to have questions about vaccines. You can provide reliable information about COVID-19 and vaccines from trusted sources, and encourage employees and workers to talk to their doctor or healthcare provider. 

Employees and workers may also have questions about company policy and their healthcare benefits. Make sure you have mechanisms in place to field questions and feedback directly from employees and workers so you can quickly address concerns.

Explaining your company’s vaccine requirements to the public and press

Employers can expect media interest and press questions about their vaccination policies for workers and customers. Having thought through the practical questions of a vaccination policy and articulated the reasons behind the policy to your employees is excellent preparation for answering questions from the public and press. Here are a few additional considerations to help you represent your policy with confidence.

Rely on simple, straightforward messages.

Lean on those messages if you get tough questions.

Your safe, simple, straightforward messaging can answer almost any question that arises.

Make use of employee feedback and the rationale you gave your workers.

Tell the press or public the same compelling story you told your employees—for example, about the costs your company bears for COVID-19 hospitalizations, the number of days lost to quarantines or long-term illnesses, and the steps your company has already taken to incentivize the vaccine. Also, share anything valuable you learned from gathering employee feedback, including support for a vaccination requirement or current levels of vaccination.

Be real. Be yourself.

The messages in this guide are intended to be safe ground to allow you to answer questions without going too far or setting off a debate. Still, you should make them your own and feel comfortable with what you are going to say. Whatever you choose to say, own it. Presenting your workplace vaccination policy with thoughtfulness and confidence will help dispel skepticism from the press or public. 

Share powerful stories. If you have lost employees or family workers to COVID-19, if they have expressed regret about not getting vaccinated, if you can describe the damage that the Delta surge has caused in your community, these will help create understanding and sympathy, and help your audience see you as a full person, not just an employer.

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Sample email to employees

Dear Team,

From the beginning of the pandemic, our first priority has been the health of our workforce. That was the reason behind all the measures for a clean and safe workplace we instituted early on and the adjustments we have continued to make as public health guidance has evolved. Every step of the way, you adapted with professionalism and patience, and I thank you again for doing that.

Our commitment to your health is the reason we have shared vaccine information. It’s also why we set up listening and conversation sessions to understand the obstacles to vaccination some of you may face, and assure those with questions or concerns.

As you know, I got vaccinated when I became eligible and encouraged you to do the same. In fact, I can report that ## percent of you have disclosed that you have been fully vaccinated from COVID-19. For this, too, I want to thank you — for protecting the health of yourselves and your co-workers, and getting us all closer to doing the things we’ve missed most with families and friends.

But we are not there yet. Today, the vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated. However, breakthrough cases among the vaccinated do occur, causing understandable concern for people with children or others at home who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and are thus vulnerable to COVID-19.

A workforce whose vaccinations are up to date creates the safest possible environment for you and for our customers. So effective [DATE], we will strengthen our workplace safety by [requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment or test negative for COVID-19 on a weekly basis - OR other requirement for your COMPANY]. This is a policy that puts the needs of our people first, and is informed by the feedback and unique concerns of our people.

Meanwhile, the virus has affected our company in other ways, too. [Add here specific information about the cost to the COMPANY of the average COVID-19 hospital stay, or the lost productivity from mandatory quarantines and long illnesses].

I will be sending more details soon about the process. 

In the meantime, I encourage you to take advantage of [any incentives or COMPANY-provided vaccine access such as paid time off] and remind you that I am committed to helping you get the facts about vaccines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted full approval to two COVID-19 vaccines, and all the COVID-19 vaccines have been studied in clinical trials with large and diverse groups of people, of various ages, races and ethnicities. They are proven to be safe and effective. 

Still, I respect that choosing to get vaccinated is an individual decision. We all need to be comfortable with our choices, so I encourage you to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider, or visit GetVaccineAnswers.org as you make your decision.

Thank you for always prioritizing the health and safety of yourselves and each other.

Yours sincerely,
NAME
President/CEO, Chief Medical Officer, or other trusted leader

Language Do’s & Don’ts

Do Say

the pandemic

ending the pandemic

back to life, back to “moments we miss” with family & friends

safe and effective vaccines

authorized by the FDA based on clinical testing

get the latest information

keep your family safe; keep those most vulnerable safe

public health

medical experts and doctors

community immunity

community vaccination

personal responsibility

protocols / guidelines

essential workers

policies that are based on facts/science/data

inform, educate, answer questions

people who still have questions about vaccines

Don't Say

the coronavirus

defeat/crush/eliminate the virus


back to “normal”

the “vaccine” (singular), injection, shot

a vaccine developed quickly

there are still things we don’t know

keep your community safe; keep your country safe

government

scientists

herd immunity

mass vaccination

national duty

orders / imperatives / decrees

frontline workers

policies that are sensible / impactful / reasonable

convince

people who are hesitant, skeptical, resistant, or “anti-vaxxers”

Additional Resources