COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Vaccine Messaging

Vaccine Safety Vaccine Benefits Vaccine Availability/Getting the Shot
Guidance for Employers: Vaccine Mandate ►Strategies for Employers
Messaging for Health Care Workers Messaging for Different Demographics
Resources  ►Downloadable Print Resources (CDC)


Updated October 11, 2021
ACOEM continues to follow the latest information related to COVID-19 and will update as necessary.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety 

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. The process to develop the vaccines was systematic, and no steps were skipped or overlooked. Each U.S. vaccine underwent rigorous clinical trials, was reviewed by and received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and is continually being monitored for safety and efficacy. Due to an urgent need for measures to end the pandemic and save lives, the vaccine was approved in less time than usual under an EUA.
  • On August 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals aged 16 years and older (marketed now as Comirnaty). For full approval of a new drug, the FDA requires extensive data on safety and effectiveness, inspection of manufacturing facilities, and a comprehensive review of all clinical and “real-world” use. With this full approval, individuals can be even more confident that the COVID-19 vaccines work and are safe.
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COVID-19 Vaccine Benefits

  • Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is a safe way to build protection against the disease. COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. COVID-19 vaccinations can help protect you by teaching your body to fight the virus without having to experience sickness or putting yourself at risk of severe illness.
  • Currently, all COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. have proven to be highly effective against COVID-19, preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Data show that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) also provide protection against variants of the virus, including the Delta strain. Current data suggest lower vaccine effectiveness against infection and symptomatic disease caused by the variants; however, breakthrough infections in those fully vaccinated are associated with far fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
  • If you remain unvaccinated, you and your family may be at risk of serious lifelong complications from a COVID-19 infection. Vaccination can prevent regret and fear that someone you love will die from COVID-19.
  • Getting back the moments we miss – being able to visit family and friends, gathering indoors at a favorite restaurant, celebrating birthdays and holidays, traveling, returning children to school– are all the things we have missed. We can have these moments back when we take simple actions, such as getting vaccinated, to keep ourselves, families, and communities safe.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals may participate in many activities that they participated in prior to the pandemic but for some of these activities, they may have to resume masking based on state and local ordinances. 
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COVID-19 Vaccine Availability and Getting the Shot
  • Individuals aged 12 years and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. Individuals aged 5-11 years may soon be eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine under an EUA (see https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-announce-positive-topline-results).
  • Vaccine supply is plentiful and is available in doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics.
  • Prior to receiving the vaccine, you will be screened for any contraindications.
  • There may be minor side effects from the vaccine (fatigue, sore arm, mild fever, headache, body/muscle aches). Mild side-effects are a normal sign that your body is building protection against the virus and usually go away within 2-3 days. You should expect to be monitored for 15-30 minutes after the vaccination to watch for rare severe reactions. Though rare, allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, have been reported. If this occurs, vaccination providers can effectively and immediately treat anaphylaxis. If you have concerns about your medical condition(s) and receiving the vaccine, consult with your doctor.
  • Specifics of a given patient's circumstance should be considered if more than one vaccine choice is available for the patient.
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Guidance for Employers Overseeing Mandatory Vaccination

On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a plan that will:
 
  • Mandate all employers with more than 100 workers to require vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19, and 
  • Require these employers to offer employees paid time off for vaccination and recovery from possible side effects.  
These requirements will be part of a forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). ACOEM provides the following guidance to assist employers in implementing the requirements under this forthcoming ETS. However, you may need to check with your local and state recommendations.

EXEMPTIONS

Religious
  • Not in the purview of occupational and environmental medicine.
Medical
There are very few medical conditions that qualify someone for an exemption from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Permanent or temporary exemptions may be allowed for employees under the following situations.

Permanent
  • Serious allergic reaction to COVID vaccination
  • Serious allergic reaction to component of vaccine (may be able to take other vaccine)
 Temporary
  • Up to 90 days post monoclonal antibody infusion
  • Up to 90 days post COVID infection
  • Deferral for up to 1 year for individuals with proof of natural immunity through antibody testing
  • Deferral until delivery for pregnant women
 RECORD KEEPING
  • Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an employer is allowed to ask an employee’s vaccination status.
  • Request for medical exemption should be treated as protected health information (PHI), managed, and recorded at the human resource level.
  • Employee’s personal health information should be blinded when a medical exemption is requested.
TESTING
What test is appropriate for weekly testing of an employee in lieu of vaccination?
Testing for an employee who is asymptomatic without known exposure:
  • Low community transmission: Antigen test (if test is positive then confirm with PCR test).
  • High community transmission: PCR test.
Who can administer COVID-19 tests?
Medical professionals or employee under direct observation of a medical professional can administer COVID-19 tests. Self-tests have also been approved by CDC, results are reported to healthcare provider or local/state health department (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html). PCR confirmation is preferred due to the risk of false negatives or testing too early in the infection.

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Strategies for Employers to Promote the Vaccine Message in the Workplace

  • Ensure that the information is personal and targeted to the individual so it addresses their questions and concerns in a nonjudgmental way.
  • Communicate using simple and clear language when explaining side effects or any potential risks associated with the vaccine.
  • Convene town hall meetings with workers and identify champions within your workplace who are trusted and can deliver the message. Many workers may feel comfortable with the health care provider at their workplace providing them information and sharing their experience.
  • It is important to acknowledge and be truthful about uncertainty to help gain trust.
  • Storytelling about those affected positively by vaccinations is more likely to be effective than statistics.
  • Consider incentivizing employees (e.g., paid time off to get vaccinated) who receive the vaccine to encourage them to contribute to a safe and healthy workplace.
  • Acknowledge COVID-19 fatigue and emotional well-being issues that employees have been experiencing this past year.
  • Encourage vaccination among employees' family members including eligible children. If you are providing a vaccination program for your employees, consider inviting family members to participate.  
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Targeted Messages for Health Care Workers 

  • Protect yourself – you are on the front lines and risk being exposed to people with COVID-19 each day on the job. 
  • You can potentially transmit the virus to patients, your co-workers, your family, and to others in your community if you do not get the vaccine.
  • Protecting yourself also helps protect your patients, coworkers, family, and community including those who may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Vaccination allows you to protect vulnerable patients that you care for every day.
  • You matter, and you play an essential role in keeping your community healthy.
  • You are a leader in science and can set an example to others in the community.
  • You can serve as a vaccine champion and positively influence vaccination decisions of peers, patients, friends, and family.  
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Targeted Messages for Different Demographics
Race
  • People in communities of color are more likely to develop serious illness following COVID-19 infections.
  • COVID-19 vaccines have been studied in clinical trials with large and diverse groups of people of various ages, races and ethnicities.
  • The vaccine development process is heavily regulated and transparent. For COVID-19, a diverse group of doctors and public health practitioners were assembled to ensure that the vaccine was safe and effective across racial groups.
  • Focus on making decisions that are best for you and your family, following fact-based, trusted information about vaccine safety and efficacy, including links to trusted sources of information (e.g., CDC, WHO, academic institutions).
  • Messaging from personal doctors and other health care providers are typically among the most trusted sources for Black/African Americans. Black/African Americans may also be more responsive to messaging from faith-based leaders.
  • Messaging from medical experts and community health providers are the most trusted sources for Hispanic/Latinos. Hispanic/Latinos may also be more receptive to messages from their inner circle such as neighbors, their mayor, and people they follow on social media.
WATCH: RWJBH: Fears, Hesitation & Access: What the Black Community Needs to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Age
  • COVID-19 vaccines have been studied in clinical trials with large and diverse groups of people, of various ages, races, and ethnicities.
  • Older adults may be more motivated to reduce their own risk for severe illness or death.
  • Young adults may be less concerned about their own health but more motivated to prevent infection in older family members.
  • On the other hand, some young adults may be less concerned about getting vaccinated because they are at less risk for severe disease, but they need to understand that they are potential transmitters of disease to more vulnerable adults.
  • There is no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine. See ACOG’s practice advisory at: https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-advisory/articles/2020/12/covid-19-vaccination-considerations-for-obstetric-gynecologic-care and CDC recommendations on vaccination of pregnant woment at: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s0811-vaccine-safe-pregnant.html.   
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Resources