Introduction

As a small business owner, you’ve shouldered a disproportionate economic burden during the pandemic. Nearly 85% of small businesses have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. More than half of Black and Hispanic small business owners report that the pandemic has been “catastrophic” or “very bad.”

Getting back to life—back to seeing our loved ones, back to school, and back to business—requires that we turn the tide against COVID-19. Vaccines offer hope and protection that can help our country and our economy rebuild and recover.

We’re on our way, but significant challenges remain. The emergence of the Omicron variant has medical experts concerned that we may need to take additional measures to prevent surges in infections. First and foremost, public health officials warn that we must encourage all Americans to keep their vaccinations up to date for the best protection against Omicron. And everyone must continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.

This guide is designed to help you:

  1. Communicate with employees, workers and customers about the safety and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines, and reinforce the importance of masking and other safety measures to prevent the spread.

  2. Make a plan to require or encourage your workers to get vaccinated at their earliest opportunity. This could include offering paid time off, transportation credits, child care or small incentives to workers who choose to get vaccinated.

  3. Strengthen vaccination efforts in your community by offering help to public health departments, nonprofit organizations and others involved in the vaccine response.

This guide includes:

  • Tips and tools for small business owners
  • Easy-to-use resources
  • Action steps to get started

If you have questions, need extra help or have best practices to share, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at: hello@healthaction.org

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: Public health guidance on COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Health Action Alliance is committed to regularly updating our materials once we've engaged public health, business and communications experts about the implications of new guidance from the public health community and effective business strategies that align with public health goals

Communicate About Vaccines

As a small business owner, the most important thing you can do to help turn the tide against COVID-19 is communicate with your employees, workers and customers about the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.  

 

Key Vaccine Messages

It’s important to use trusted, fact-based messages from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health partners. Here are some messages you can consider:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. 

There are multiple COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means the clinical evidence for the vaccines has met the agency's rigorous scientific standards and they are considered to be safe and effective. Vaccines teach your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. 


  • COVID-19 vaccines can help us get back to the things we love.

We all want to get back to our lives. Vaccinations can help us get back to many of the things we miss most, like spending time with loved ones and friends, traveling and going to events. They’ll help keep you from getting COVID-19, reduce hospitalizations and save lives.


  • Get vaccinated at your earliest opportunity and keep your vaccinations up to date.

Everyone ages 5 and older is now eligible to receive free COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of immigration status. You don’t need health insurance to get a free vaccine. For optimal protection against the Omicron variant, booster shots are available to everyone ages 12 and older.


  • COVID-19 vaccines provide hope, but we need to continue following public health guidelines to prevent the spread. 

The CDC recommends that everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission. A majority of counties across the U.S. are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission rates that call for indoor mask-wearing, according to CDC. 


  • It is okay to have questions about vaccines.

We want to make sure you have access to trusted information in order to make decisions about vaccines for yourself and your family. If you have questions about whether vaccines are right for you, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

 

Options for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, you have lots of ways to communicate with your employees and customers. Here are some strategies you might consider:

 

  • Send an email or home mailer sharing facts about COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s a sample email and a vaccine fact sheet you can use. (Also available in Spanish.)
  • Organize one-on-one or small group discussions to share facts from trusted sources and to hear concerns. Here’s a Conversation Guide to help you engage your employees and workers.
  • Use your company newsletter or social media channels to share trusted information about vaccines. Here’s sample newsletter content and social media tools from the CDC to help guide your outreach.
  • Invite vaccinated employees and workers to share their positive vaccine experience during a staff meeting or via a company newsletter or email.
  • Invite a local physician or other public health expert to speak with your employees and workers about vaccines. Here’s a Tip Sheet for recruiting a speaker.
  • Lead by example. Make sure you get vaccinated and let your employees and workers know you did so. Create a safer work environment for your workers and customers by requiring everyone to wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.     

 

Supporting Employees with Additional Questions

People who are unvaccinated may have additional questions or need extra support before making their decision about vaccines. 

Here are some ways you can help:

 

  • Acknowledge that it’s okay to have questions. As an employer, your role is to make sure your workers feel supported. Don’t try to “convince” employees or “change their mind” about vaccines. Instead, offer trusted information and encourage employees to speak with their doctor or healthcare provider. GetVaccineAnswers is a great resource with answers to frequently asked questions about vaccines in a variety of languages, including Spanish and Haitian Creole.
  • Understand that some groups may have unique experiences and concerns. Black, Hispanic, Asian-American, American Indian and Alaska Native communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and have experienced higher rates of hospitalization, severe illness and death. 
  • Lead with empathy. If you’re not a member of a disproportionately impacted group, it’s helpful to learn more about why these inequities exist and how they might contribute to additional questions about vaccines. You can support employees by acknowledging the deep historical traumas and structural inequalities that lead to poorer health outcomes and contribute to greater mistrust.
  • Create a safe, supportive workplace culture. As a small business owner, you can cultivate an environment where all workers feel supported by listening without judgment and creating space for questions. Understand that no community shares all of the same beliefs, perceptions and concerns. Every individual is unique, and every employee deserves to have their questions answered before making a decision about vaccines.
  • Identify local groups or resources who can help.  Many nonprofit organizations, public health departments, churches, cities and states are hosting events and launching initiatives to educate and engage diverse communities about vaccines. These offer great opportunities to connect your employees to events and initiatives that reflect their unique needs.

 

Three Steps to Getting Started

It’s important to begin communicating about vaccines now. Here are three things you can do right away:

 

  1. Share with your employees why COVID-19 vaccines are important to you. Be honest, open and authentic. Lead by example and share about your positive vaccine experience.
  1. Communicate your intention to create a workplace environment where all employees feel supported. Create an “open door” policy that invites workers to share questions and ask for help getting the information they need to make a decision about vaccines.  
  1. Provide information about where vaccines are available in your community. Search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you. Remind workers that vaccines are free and available to everyone in the United States ages 12 and older, regardless of immigration status. You don’t need health insurance to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 
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Encourage or Require Vaccination

A workforce whose vaccinations are up to date creates the safest possible workplace environment for employees and customers. Hundreds of small and large companies have announced policies to require vaccinations for all or part of their workforce. You may customize your workplace policy using our Sample COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement Policy as a guide. 

Additionally, our Guides for Responding to Requests for Medical Exemptions and Religious Exemptions provide step-by-step recommendations for handling these requests and providing reasonable accommodations. And our Sample Request Forms for Medical Exemptions and Religious Exemptions will help your company assess these requests in a consistent and orderly way.

If a vaccination requirement is not an option for your small business, we recommend these steps:

 

  • Routine Testing: Require all workers and regular visitors (not retail customers) to be routinely screened with a rapid test, at least weekly. Repeated negative tests provide a high degree of certainty that the individual is not infectious.
  • Support Workers: Employers are encouraged to provide paid time off for vaccinations and recovery from possible side effects. Businesses should extend this support to working parents who choose to vaccinate eligible children, too. Consider organizing on-site vaccination clinics for workers and families, or offering transportation support, childcare or incentives to improve access to vaccines.

 

We’ve created an interactive Decision Tool with the latest health, legal and safety considerations to help guide your planning and decision-making.  

 

Additional Ways to Support Workers

Research has shown that there are additional ways small businesses can support or incentivize workers to get vaccinated. Small businesses may not be able to afford all, or even some, of these proposed actions. These are intended to provide examples of ways you might consider supporting employees and workers, to the extent you are able.  

 

  • Cover out-of-pocket expenses associated with vaccination. This could include offering an Uber or Lyft gift card for transportation, a small stipend for lunch or reimbursement for child care. 
  • Extend benefits and support to your entire workforce, including temporary, part-time or contract workers.
  • Help identify where workers can get vaccinated. Search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you. Vaccines are widely available at more than 80,000 locations across the country, including over 40,000 retail pharmacies. Ninety percent of Americans live within 5 miles of a vaccine site. 
  • Help your workers access free at-home tests from covidtests.gov. These tests are completely free—no shipping cost, no need to enter a credit card number. 
  • Help your workers navigate reimbursable home tests. As of January 15, private health insurers are required to cover the costs of up to eight COVID-19 tests per month. Make sure employees know what your health plans require of them, which may include keeping the test box, as well as receipts, or buying from in-network stores.
  • Offer internet access or language support services to help employees and workers schedule appointments.
  • Some small businesses may be able to partner with a local public health department or other providers to offer on-site vaccinations to employees and workers, even during late shifts.
  • Consider providing small prizes, rewards or other modest financial incentives (i.e., gift cards, coupons, tokens, etc.) to employees and customers who get vaccinated.
  • Remind employees that vaccines are free and available to everyone in the United States ages 5 and older, regardless of immigration status. You don’t need health insurance to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
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Strengthen Vaccine Distribution in Your Community

Delivering and administering hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccinations represents one of the greatest communications, logistical and public health challenges in our country’s history.  There are many ways your small business might support local vaccination efforts and contribute to a faster recovery.

 

Options for Small Businesses

  • Lead by example. As a trusted leader in your community, you can encourage other small businesses to share facts about the safety and benefits of vaccines; offer paid time off to workers for vaccine appointments and recovery, including to attend vaccine appointments with eligible children; and, align workplace safety protocols with the latest public health guidance.
  • Encourage your local chamber of commerce or rotary club to host an educational conversation on the role of small businesses in the vaccine response, and volunteer to share what you’ve learned.
  • Encourage your customers to get vaccinated by offering special coupons, discounts or other incentives. (We’ve compiled great examples of companies offering customer incentives.) 
  • Share vaccine facts on your product packaging or post educational flyers at your place of business
  • Contact your local public health department to help address other needs, including transportation, childcare, language support or other services that may help improve access and remove barriers to vaccination in your community.
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Our Tools and Resources

We’ve prepared tools, templates and communications resources to help you engage employees, workers, customers and other stakeholders, including:

 

Resources for Small Businesses

 

General Business Resources

Resources in Spanish

 

Health Action Alliance’s digital resource hub contains our full suite of tools, resources, case studies, training opportunities and information about upcoming events. You can also SIGN UP to receive our latest resources, updates and event invitations!

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Additional Resources

About HAA

The Health Action Alliance unlocks the power of business to create a healthier workforce and thriving communities.


Guided by the nation’s most trusted sources on public health, the companies in our network:


  • Accelerate the response to the most pressing health challenges
  • Strengthen resilience by prioritizing the health of their communities
  • Emphasize equity to advance access to health for all