By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
September 13, 2023

Updated COVID-19 Vaccines: What Employers Need to Know

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared the way for updated COVID-19 vaccinations to start this week, following formal approval earlier this week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Shots should be available in pharmacies, clinics and doctors’ offices within days.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have crept up in recent weeks, public health officials have encouraged Americans to step up prevention – like handwashing, testing and masking. The arrival of updated vaccines offers a new, even more effective layer of protection against the latest COVID-19 variants. And, the availability of updated COVID-19 vaccines alongside new immunizations for flu and RSV can help prevent a “tripledemic” of respiratory infections during the colder, winter months when more of us congregate indoors.


For most adults, it has been a year since a new COVID-19 booster became available to them – and both immunity and attention have waned in that time. By making employees aware of the availability, safety and efficacy of the updated vaccines, employers can drive uptake.

This comes at a moment when COVID-19 hospitalizations are well down from a year ago, but trending steadily upward. The improved protection from the updated vaccines doesn't just prevent the worst-case scenarios, either. Medical experts say the updated vaccines may help people recover sooner even if they get infected, resulting in fewer missed days of work.

Despite the end of the formal COVID-19 emergency last May, most Americans will still have access to free shots through their employer-sponsored health insurance or Medicaid. For the uninsured and underinsured, the federal government established a program to continue providing free COVID-19 vaccines through December – all the more reason to encourage the full range of your workforce to re-up their protection now.

Below, we’ve summarized key messages that you can share with employees about the new vaccines, and we’ve offered a checklist to help you take action.


  • Vaccinations work best when we keep them up to date. An annual COVID-19 immunization restores the protection of vaccines that wanes over time. The updated shots are designed to protect against the latest variants and are recommended by the CDC for all adults and children 6 months and older.
  • Now is the time to get your updated annual immunization. If you are already vaccinated against COVID-19, but haven’t already received the updated immunization, you may be eligible to get your updated shot right away. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about whether the updated COVID-19 vaccines are right for you.
  • The updated COVID-19 vaccines work. They have been proven to generate a strong immune-system response, 10 to 17 times higher against current variants, compared to before vaccination.
  • The updated COVID-19 vaccines are safe. The process for creating them was similar to the one medical experts use each year to update the flu vaccine. The vaccines were tested in clinical trials and approved by the FDA. Researchers have found that side effects from the updated COVID-19 vaccines are similar to or lower than those from the original shots. Side effects from the vaccines are far less common and less serious than the health impacts from getting ill with COVID-19.
  • Vaccines are still free for most Americans. Most employees are eligible for free shots through their insurance as long as they use an in-network doctor or pharmacy. Vaccines are also free through Medicare or Medicaid. For those who are uninsured, the federal government is providing free shots at thousands of locations across the country until December. To find a vaccine site near you, visit
  • Consider getting annual immunizations for COVID-19 and flu at the same time. Public health officials say that it’s safe to to get these shots at the same time, and the combination of updated vaccines offers the best protection from severe illness, hospitalization or death.

Ahead of a potential winter surge in new infections, business leaders should consider ways to make it easier for workers – and their families – to access updated COVID-19 vaccines. Here are six steps every employer should consider to boost vaccine uptake and keep COVID-19 out of your workplace:

  1. Share vaccine facts. Use the key messages above to spread trusted information about vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as the many benefits of vaccination.

  2. Help employees find vaccines. Encourage employees to use to find local vaccine distribution sites and to schedule appointments. Many of the major retail pharmacy chains offer convenient online appointment scheduling for COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

  3. Make vaccination easy and convenient. Partner with your local public health department or a local healthcare provider to host on-site or near-site vaccine clinics for workers. If you can’t host a clinic on-site, offer paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from possible side effects. You may want to offer paid time off to working parents to take their eligible children for vaccine appointments, too. Communicate with employees about the free vaccinations available through your employer-sponsored insurance plans, and how employees can confirm that doctors or pharmacies are in-network.

  4. Consider incentives. Your goal is to drive quick action to limit illnesses this winter, when health-related absenteeism typically hits its peak. Consider providing prizes, rewards or modest financial incentives (i.e., gift cards, coupons, etc.) to employees who get vaccinated or teams that have high rates of vaccine uptake.

  5. Free testing. As cases rise, employers may want to make free COVID-19 tests available to workers, and require that workers who test positive quarantine at home for at least 5 days before returning to work. Free COVID-19 tests are still available at thousands of locations across the country.

  6. Remind employees to act fast if they get COVID-19. While updated vaccines provide the best defense against the virus, it is still possible for someone who’s up-to-date on their vaccinations to get infected. COVID-19 treatments taken within 5 days of the onset of symptoms can keep a mild illness from getting worse. Encourage workers who are at higher risk for severe illness to make a treatment plan and contact their provider right away if they test positive for COVID-19.