Preparing for Greater Access to the COVID-19 Vaccine
As of mid-April, more than 24% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. And while vaccine distribution is currently in the hands of the federal government, commercial availability is around the corner, which means that plan sponsors should start planning now.
Convenience and overcoming vaccine hesitancy can be the difference between reaching herd immunity or not, so it’s important for plan sponsors to think about how they can address both.
When will COVID-19 vaccines be available for plan sponsors?
Vaccines started being distributed in December 2020 in a limited, phased approach. Allocations to each state are led by the federal government with each state creating its own distribution plan.
The timetable for commercial availability is unknown and will likely be mitigated by distribution constraints and the continuous monitoring of vaccine safety. However the need for vaccination at this time is necessary with the emergence of new variants, rising daily infection rates, and other factors like booster shots that might be required in the future, making it important for plan sponsors to move quickly when the time comes.
What can plan sponsors do now?
First, help members access the vaccine as soon as possible, if they can, whether through internal communications or the use of a state resource locator.
Second, start planning a vaccination access strategy. This could include:
- Covering vaccinations at pharmacies or through their providers
- Hosting onsite vaccination events
Convenience plays a key role in expanding access and adoption of any vaccine, especially for members who want the predictability of their local pharmacy or provider or who don’t want to or can’t take time away from their worksite.
Third, continue to combat vaccine hesitancy among members through a robust communications plan that emphasizes vaccine safety and the risks from the new variants. In fact, new research shows that 72% of Americans trust their employer as the most believable source of information on a range of issues, including the pandemic.
We need to reach herd immunity as quickly as possible to reduce the number of infections and to prevent COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations.