Coronavirus

Tips for Building a Future-Ready Vaccine Tracking Program

By Kimberly George, Global Head of Innovation and Product Development, Sedgwick

Corporate leaders are planning now to get their teams back to the office, which means vaccine tracking programs are at top of mind for many leaders. Vaccine tracking was a hot topic even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but attention has since escalated.

There are reasons for creating a vaccine tracking program are more complex and interconnected than meets the eye. Certainly, employers want to get their staff back in the office, in the field and traveling again. The health and safety of a workforce directly impacts the community in which those workers live and thrive, so there’s a social responsibility element as well. And with social media ever-present, consumers pay close attention to companies they like, and they build confidence and trust in a brand through seeing how a brand provides resources to its employees – especially during crisis times.

To Mandate or Not To Mandate?

To take the first step in implementing a vaccine tracking program, consider how to talk to your employees – communication and education are absolutely key to this process. What resources have already been shared, and how regularly did your company update staff throughout the past year? Employers who communicated frequently will find that a program will be much easier to implement. Those who have stayed out of the vaccine conversation, out of fear that the topic is too controversial or best to “wait and see” will have to go the extra mile to provide helpful and actionable vaccine education to their staff.

Whether a company should mandate that their staff get vaccinated to return to work is up to the leadership team, but executive leaders must be on the same page. Today with COVID-19, many companies are not mandating vaccinations – instead, they’re taking an encouraging approach. Some workforces have less connectivity and internet access than others, so companies can encourage their staff through providing support to help understand the process. Nurse hotlines and triages are another way companies are opening lines of communication, combatting misinformation about vaccine safety, and encouraging employees to get vaccinated.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Small businesses have approached vaccination tracking much differently than large national or global corporations – and the barriers to implementation change with size. Smaller companies have a much easier time tracking and managing their team’s vaccinations and can often do so with a spreadsheet or survey. Lockdowns have had a greater impact on many of these businesses, so they are very motivated to jumpstart vaccine tracking programs. As part of their “encouraging” process, we have seen smaller employers go to the local pharmacy in groups or buddy pairs to boost confidence in the vaccination process.

Large corporations, on the other hand, have complicated communication protocols, more executive red tape, and multiple geographies to oversee. These employers benefit the most from a technology solution that is self-service, intuitive and configurable. Employees can receive communications and resources across several platforms to quickly understand benefits, incentives or requirements. Tech tools like this also aid the education process, and intuitive platforms know each vaccine’s time frame and can automatically schedule an employee’s second dose.

It’s important for these tracking tools to gain employee consent around vaccination status and inform employees about how their data is being used. A secure platform is essential when handling personal health information, including uploading and storing CDC vaccination card records.

Other Vaccine Program Best Practices

We’ve seen the best of vaccine tracking programs so far in our work with clients and with Sedgwick’s own internal program – here are a few more recommendations to make a tracking program a success:

  • Give progress updates often – communication is key to vaccination tracking programs. Employees value knowing about how many of their colleagues are vaccinated, getting kudos when certain milestones are reached, and hearing success stories along the way.
  • Don’t overlook vaccine confidence – prioritizing peer support is one way to increase the success of a vaccination program. Peer support breaks down existing stigmas toward vaccination and helps answer questions and doubts about the vaccination experience. The same is true for vaccination programs – when employees involve their peers, they open up more lines of communication around getting vaccinated and tracking their progress.
  • Incentivize your employees – executive teams know their workforce best and can choose the right incentives to encourage vaccination. Offering paid time off days to get the vaccine is a common and often successful strategy in many workplaces. For teams heavy on contracted or freelance help, the parameters of a paid incentive might look a little different.
  • Have compliance plans – know your process for handling employees who do not want to get vaccinated. There are many reasons an employee would decide against vaccination, from existing medical reasons to religious beliefs. HR teams should be involved in planning these conversations or consider outsourcing ADA compliance and administration experts, to ensure employees have clear communications around discrimination and compliance measures.

The Future of Vaccination Tracking Programs

Vaccine tracking programs are not a one-and-done procedure – executive teams must really commit to the process and create roles and responsibilities at all levels over time. This creates a deeper understanding of vaccinations, to maximize the safety of their workforce as teams return to their regular commutes and broader travel schedules.

A program’s lifespan does not need to end with the COVID-19 vaccine, either. Once companies implement COVID vaccine programs, we will see other types of illnesses and vaccines come into play, from annual flu shot records to special vaccinations for workers who are traveling abroad in specific countries. Complex tracking infrastructure can also be applied to schools, college campuses, and sports teams. The implications go far beyond this pandemic – leaders should stay informed, communicate often to their staff, and do their best to provide effective resources that put their employees’ health and safety first. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.