What Does the COVID Vaccine Mean For the Job Market?

Hands holding up the COVID-19 vaccine.
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Overview

What Does The Covid Vaccine Mean For The Job Market?

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The past year has been tough. Record unemployment, economic uncertainty, and a massive shift in the way we work have left people wondering what the future holds for the job market. Now, 61% of Americans want the COVID vaccine or have already gotten it according to a recent study. What does the COVID vaccine mean for the job market?

To help get a better idea of what we can expect, we’ll take a closer look at the impact SARS-CoV-2 has had to date. We’ll also look at why people are hesitant to get vaccinated, and what macroeconomic changes these factors could lead to in the coming years.

Why Are Vaccinations so Important?

To say that volume is crucial to the success of vaccination efforts against COVID-19 would be a massive understatement. In fact, health experts estimate that at least 70% of the US population needs to be vaccinated to get herd immunity high enough.

If less than 70% of the population gets vaccinated, then the herd immunity factor likely won’t be sufficient to get COVID cases to manageable levels. In essence, the pandemic will be stretched out longer than it has to if too many people refuse to get their vaccinations.

This will have a myriad of socioeconomic consequences. First of all, the economy is going to be put under increased strain as quantitative easing measures like nationwide stimulus checks can only keep the financial implications of this virus at bay for so long.

Job security will also be put at risk if the US is unable to rid itself of high infection rates. In a worst-case scenario, the country will need to resort to cyclical lockdowns whenever cases get too high which will endanger the survival of businesses and the workers they employ.

Why Aren’t People Getting Vaccinated?

Only a small percentage of the total population used to hold negative views against vaccines. So-called anti-vaxxers never amassed enough numbers to threaten public health on a nationwide scale.

That’s all changed this year where even those who are pro-vaccine and have been vaccinated for other diseases aren’t willing to get their shots from AstraZeneca, Moderna, or other pharmaceutical companies.

Along with naivety and misinformation, today’s skepticism is driven more so by uncertainty. With rapid development time for the vaccines and the lack of clinical data covering any potential long-term side effects, people are unsure.

An AP study on COVID vaccination back in December revealed that only 50% of Americans wanted to get the COVID vaccine. More recently, a study by the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor shows this number has increased to 61%. The number of those unwilling to get the vaccine has remained mostly unchanged. Instead, the rise comes from those who previously said they’d wait and see.

One-third report having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine stats by Vaccine Monitor.

The improvement in public opinion is due to a myriad of influences from political to economic as well as safety-related factors. We ran our own Lensa survey to gauge how ready the US workforce is for mass vaccination.

How Open is the US Workforce to Vaccination?

Based on the data gathered by Lensa, the percentage of people who have been vaccinated or are willing to do so sits at 70% for both employed and unemployed respondents. However, that’s not the full story.

While both groups were equally willing to get vaccinated, those who are employed (either at a company or on a freelance basis) were almost twice as likely to already be vaccinated at the time of the survey — which ran throughout February 2021.

This suggests that people who are employed have a bigger need or sense of urgency to get vaccinated due to workplace requirements versus those who are unemployed.

Overall, the percentage of people who weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated or outright refuse to do so sat at 30% for both employed and unemployed respondent groups.

What Would Change Their Mind?

With hordes of people refusing the vaccine, health officials worry that there won’t be enough herd immunity to control the number of new cases and get infection rates down. So what would make them change their mind?

Employer Requirements

Our survey showed that only 26% of people who were unsure or willing to get vaccinated said an employer mandate would influence their decision one way or another. A further 28% said they weren’t sure if it would impact their choice while 46% said it wouldn’t.

That’s not to say that industry-wide mandates won’t be effective, though. In principle, one may think that they wouldn’t be influenced by sweeping requirements or herd mentality, but it becomes a whole different story in the real world.

National Graphic pointed out that vaccine enforcement will likely be the make or break factor that determines the overall efficacy of an industry mandate. Arthur Caplan from the New York University’s School of Medicine did share: “We’re not going to get to the point where the vaccine police break down your door to vaccinate you.”

Seeing as no Draconian measures will be taken to enforce industry mandates, many people question whether or not these will be very effective at all.

The lack of effective enforcement coupled with the list of potential exclusions one can be challenging.

It’s important to consider the impact that remote work will have on the issue as well. Companies will be unable to establish just cause to mandate that remote workers get vaccinated since their working arrangement poses no health risk to themselves or others.

Employees wearing masks during COVID-19.

While shifting to online systems has reduced the transmission rate within companies, it can also end up as a double-edged sword that makes it harder for business owners to mandate vaccination for the majority of employees — slowing down the march towards herd immunity.

Emily Litzinger, a partner at the Fisher Phillips law firm, said this about employer mandate on vaccines“If you’re dealing with someone like me, who can work entirely remotely, an employer is not going to be able to mandate they get vaccinated.”

Only time will tell the effects of these legal restrictions in the race against COVID.

Clinical Data

As more people get vaccinated and we get more data, the hesitance of the public should be further relieved. It’s true that even long-term data on the safety of vaccines isn’t enough to convince everyone, but it does help.

In fact, a solid track record is one of the strongest tools against misinformation spread by the anti-vax community. The longer a vaccine has been around, the harder it is to make malicious claims against it since there are already piles of information proving the contrary.

We see this with the MMR vaccine since it’s been around since 1971. There are still skeptics who make outlandish arguments about the alleged danger of the aforementioned vaccination. But all the data we’ve gathered through the years makes disproving their theories rather easy.

Easier Access

Just because someone wants to get vaccinated, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to follow through on their plan. Despite a sizable portion of the populace not being interested in vaccination, supply has lagged behind demand for those who want their shots.

If the job market wants to curb transmission rates for the sake of not only recovery but also future prosperity, then making vaccines more accessible to low-income households and shortening waiting lists is of utmost importance.

Boosting supply will become increasingly important as larger groups of the public warm up to the idea of the COVID vaccine. The issues in the supply chain we currently see are only a teaser of what could come if manufacturing and distribution aren’t stepped up soon.

Information

Knowledge is power. The more credible resources we put out on the reality of COVID, the less we have to worry about misinformation. Cutting down on the percentage of the population who thinks that the virus isn’t real certainly can’t hurt.

Though it’s quite difficult to imagine how anyone could doubt the validity of the pathogen or think this is a lucrative Bill Gate hoax with the global death toll approaching three million casualties.

We live in an age where it’s easier than ever before to share information wherever you are on our pale blue dot. This newfound ability can be used for good or for bad depending on who’s wielding it — much like a hammer that can be used to both build and destroy.

Which Professions Are Most in Need of Widespread Vaccination?

While widespread vaccination in all industries would be the ideal scenario from the perspective of herd immunity, there are certain sectors where it may not be as essential.

For instance, stockbrokers who work for their firm remotely are at relatively low risk of contracting the virus. The same holds true for real estate agents who are able to handle presentations and closings virtually through tools like Zoom or Docusign. 

However, blue-collar workers such as those at construction sites are often in close proximity to coworkers.

Essential worker holding safety hat and equipment.

Cloud companies have been attempting to facilitate a seamless transfer for those who have been switched from in-office to remote work. Changes like free COVID services have been seen since May of 2020 based on coverage by the cloud communication authority publication GetVoIP.

People in riskier lines of work should put a greater emphasis on getting vaccinated both to protect themselves from COVID-19 and also to prevent transmission to the rest of the company. Lastly, we can’t forget about the thousands of medical professionals who have served boldly.

Those at the front lines of the war against COVID often receive priority access to vaccinations — and rightly so! They are at the highest risk of contracting the virus since they encounter COVID-positive individuals on a daily basis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, essential workers that should receive priority vaccination against COVID-19 include firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers, and those in the educational sector to name a few.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s likely better to be safe than sorry. Contributing to the goal of herd immunity is an initiative that everyone can get behind regardless of their occupation. At the end of the day, the only way we get through this is together.

Can Employers Mandate Vaccinations?

Can and should are two very different things. Should employers mandate vaccinations? In most cases, the answer is likely yes — particularly for those in high-risk industries. In terms of whether or not they’re legally able to, that comes down to whether the law grants such rights.

Generally, employers are permitted to require vaccinations as a condition of the employment agreement. That being said, they must observe medical and religious exclusions that grant certain workers exemption from vaccination.

In terms of surveying staff members to see who’s been vaccinated, that’s completely acceptable as well provided that employers don’t go a step further with inquiries into why a certain employee didn’t get vaccinated because this may cause issues with regard to disability laws.

Attorney Amy Epstein Gluck from the law firm FisherBroyles LLP told the Wall Street Journal that there’s nothing wrong with employers requiring proof of vaccination either. However, they can’t cross the line into soliciting medical information as this will violate certain regulations.

It’s also essential that employers make their policies clear. If they don’t properly communicate the mandatory nature, they’ll be unable to fault their employees for non-compliance. It all comes down to compliant policy and transparent enforcement.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when you’re looking at how to deal with a novel issue. There are so many different angles and facets to the issue that can shape one’s decision in whether or not to get vaccinated. Fortunately, informative campaigns targeting reasonable people should be more than enough to get the US to a high enough level of herd immunity. 

Regardless of what the final outcome is with the first round of vaccinations, the changes that COVID-19 has had and will continue to have on the job market cannot be neglected. Societal adoption of remote collaboration is one trend, in particular, that’s likely to continue.

Lensa Insights
Lensa Insights
Work is changing faster than an angry retrovirus. For jobseekers, that means one thing: adapt or die! Lensa Insights is your survival guide, offering actionable career tips to keep your future in focus.

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