CDC Issues Guidance for Employer-Operated Vaccination Sites
As states across the US expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, employers are well-positioned to facilitate vaccine access and improve distribution efficiency. One critical way for employers to achieve these goals is through the operation of workplace vaccination sites, sometimes called closed points of dispensing (CPODs).
On March 16, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance on workplace vaccination programs. Among other recommendations, the CDC encourages some employers to implement workplace COVID-19 vaccination sites and outlines best practices for doing so.
According to the CDC, employers with (1) a large number of workers on predictable schedules, (2) the ability to enroll as a vaccination provider or engage an already enrolled vaccination provider, and (3) enough space to operate a vaccination clinic that allows for social distancing should consider operating an on-site vaccination program. Conversely, the CDC recommends an off-site vaccination program for small- or medium-sized employers with a mobile workforce on variable schedules.
The CDC provides several options for employers that choose to operate an on-site vaccination program, including existing occupational health clinics, employer-run temporary vaccination clinics, and mobile vaccination clinics brought to the workplace. Regardless of the model, the CDC advises employers to contact their local health department for guidance. Many jurisdictions have already embraced the CPOD model (e.g. Chicago, IL) and provide extensive information on their websites.
The updated CDC guidance makes clear workplace vaccination clinics should solicit input from management, human resources, employees, and labor representatives. It also references the National Institute of Health’s Key Elements of a Model Workplace Safety and Health COVID-19 Vaccination Program, which advises employers to establish a formal vaccination planning committee with these and other stakeholders. This committee should monitor changes to vaccine eligibility in the relevant jurisdictions, document the vaccination plan, and communicate with employees about the program.
The CDC says an on-site vaccination program should offer the vaccine to all workers, regardless of their status as a contractor or temporary employee. However, employers should consider staggering employee vaccination to avoid side effect-induced worker shortages. Employers must also offer the vaccination at no charge during work hours, and be prepared to monitor for and manage potential anaphylaxis after vaccination.
Finally, the CDC suggests employers develop a plan to prioritize who receives the vaccine first if there is not enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all eligible workers at once.
In addition to this logistical guidance, the CDC outlines additional best practices, including:
Offering flexible, non-punitive sick leave options (e.g., paid sick leave) for employees with signs and symptoms after vaccination
Allowing time for vaccine confidence to grow among employees and working to build that confidence with transparent communication and educational messages
Offering more than one opportunity to attend an on-site vaccination program
Asking organizations and individuals who are respected within the employee community to help build vaccine confidence
This CDC guidance is a starting point for employers as they prepare to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake among their workforces; increasing vaccinations is critical to decreasing COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, as well as to the successful reopening of businesses nationwide.
However, employers must also consider a number of additional factors prior to implementing a CPOD.