COVID-19 vaccines are in full rollout. Citizens across the U.S., U.K., and the EU have begun the vaccination process, and with over 200 vaccines globally undergoing various states of testing, the new approach with mRNA has completely transformed the future of vaccine development. We are now able to develop more vaccines in less time, giving us the opportunity to control an outbreak as it’s happening. With COVID-19 developing two to three new mutations per month, this new technology could be key to ending the pandemic.
As for whether the COVID-19 vaccine will become an annual occurrence, like the flu shot, is another matter. It’s still unclear how long it will take to establish herd immunity, and without widespread adoption of COVID-19 vaccines, there is a possibility the virus could become endemic—like strains of the flu, HIV, or Ebola. Meaning that tracking COVID-19 vaccinations, and its many variables, could become an annual or periodic challenge that businesses will face.
This leaves many employers beginning 2021 with more questions than answers. With so many uncertainties looming, we dive into where action can be taken and what employers should look to do right now.
The Reality of Vaccine Mandates
Questions around mandating the COVID-19 vaccine have no clear answer. Will it be mandated by the government? Can employers mandate it? Will it become a compliance/reporting requirement? While there are still many unknowns, we should expect more clarification moving forward:
It is likely that the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] will issue updated guidance to address the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace in the near future. Additionally, there are currently discussions within state government concerning how to address this issue within the State law context. However, until some action is taken it appears that employers may require employees to receive vaccinations when available, subject to the restrictions identified by the EEOC and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration]. — The National Law Review
While a vaccine mandate coming from the state or federal level is not out of the question, given the amount of pushback seen on mask mandates during rises in infection rates throughout 2020, a vaccine mandate could see even greater pushback and reduce the odds of being implemented.
In the case that there’s not a government mandate, it’s still possible that the mandate could instead come from employers. Some sectors, however, will have an easier time of it than others. Industries like healthcare, education, and childcare, where there is already precedent for vaccination requirements, will see fewer hurdles when requiring vaccination against COVID-19, compared to other industries.
Joanne Rosen, a legal and public health expert, discussed the issue on Public Health on Call, Johns Hopkins’ Public School of Health’s podcast. While private employers can, and have, mandated vaccinations in the past, Rosen states that the employer needs to have a “reasonable basis,” otherwise they can only recommend it. Though, sectors “[...] in which the employees are themselves are at greater risk of contracting vaccine-preventable illnesses or who work with populations that are especially vulnerable,” Rosen states that the employers can mandate vaccines. As for sectors like retail, Rosen says “I'm not sure a corporate entity could require that. They may want you to and recommend it, but it wouldn't be reasonably related to the requirements of their job.”
What Employers Can Do
Whether or not the state or federal government mandates the COVID-19 vaccine, employers should still track employee’s COVID-19 vaccinations. In the event of an outbreak of coronavirus at a location, employers that do track employee vaccinations can identify and isolate employees that either haven’t been vaccinated or are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, a sentiment that is supported by Johns Hopkins University.
Origami Risk’s Vaccine Tracking solution, part of our award-winning COVID-19 Solution Suite, helps organizations to track and report on key data related to employee vaccinations, including location-by location vaccination progress. The solution enables organizations to:
- Use web or mobile forms to report vaccinations
- Record detailed vaccination data tied to the employee record
- Record waived vaccinations with reason (medical, religious, etc.)
Visualize Data through Dashboards
- Easily visualize high-level or drilled-down data points
- Enable role-based access
- Quickly identify states or locations with high or low vaccination rates
Pull Detailed or High-Level Reports
- Easily pull and share vaccination reports on employees, locations, and states
- Report on vaccination goals or percentage of vaccinated employees
Origami’s solution takes the administrative nightmare out of tracking employee vaccinations and makes sense of countless data points. A process that would be impossible via spreadsheets is easily managed with the right solution, and it’s imperative that employers that do look to implement vaccination tracking ensure the solution they choose is flexible enough for the future.
The Future of Vaccine Tracking
The speed at which the COVID-19 vaccine was developed and how it works has completely transformed the future of vaccine development. Rather than following outbreaks, vaccines can now be developed in real-time during an outbreak with the potential to control and stop it. Meaning organizations need to be capable of tracking vaccination data just as quickly as vaccines are developed.
Just as the development of vaccines speeds up, so does the rate at which infectious diseases develop and travel. In What COVID-19 has taught us: lessons from around the globe, we’re reminded that in just three months, SARS-CoV-2 went from an isolated outbreak in a single city to a global pandemic. Urbanization, globalization, ease of travel, climate change, an increase in natural disasters and their severity, and more are key drivers of disease that show no signs of slowing down in the near future.
If COVID has taught us anything, it is the severe damage an infectious disease in a global economy can cause and how quickly the world can shut down. Although many organizations had “pandemic” listed somewhere on their risk register, witnessing the scale and velocity of the coronavirus pandemic clearly means that infectious diseases need to receive more attention, planning, and real-time tracking and data capabilities from a risk management view.
As a result, many businesses have unfortunately learned the hard way that managing a risk like the coronavirus requires forethought and an offensive risk management plan. While the future of the current pandemic is uncertain, it’s becoming clear that organizations will likely see more infectious diseases in the future. As for how they manage it, a flexible, forward-facing solution that puts the organization in a position to proactively take charge—before it's needed—will be key.
To see Origami Risk’s vaccine tracking solution first-hand, watch the 5 minute feature overview or our How to Tackle COVID-19 Outbreak Reporting & Vaccination Tracking webinar on-demand.