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Healthcare

Businesses Push Hard To Get Workforce Vaccinated

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Some companies are going all out to get their employees vaccinated. They're arranging to get shots for their workers, or they're paying employees a couple hundred dollars to get the vaccine. Those efforts could prove critical in accelerating the country's vaccine drive. NPR's H.J. Mai has the story.

H J MAI, BYLINE: For Denver-based flight attendant Ken Cow (ph), getting them during a vaccine was as easy as driving to work.

KEN COW: It was great to be able to be vaccinated at the airport. You know where you're going. Having it at the airport makes it convenient for me and all my flying partners.

MAI: Denver's airport is one of several across the country where vaccination efforts are underway. It's part of an initiative to provide shots to airline and airport workers. Other companies, like grocery store chain Lidl, are dangling financial carrots, which is just icing on the cake for workers like Long Island store manager Rafael Monroy.

RAFAEL MONROY: Once the company announced that they were going to do it to an incentive, obviously, they want to take advantage of it as well.

MAI: Lidl said it could end up spending up to $2 million providing financial incentives to its workers. For Lidl, it's a small price to pay to convince people to get vaccinated. Companies are also working hard to dispel any doubts about the vaccines. Tyson Foods, for example, is offering onsite clinics and translating information about the vaccines into over 40 languages.

CLAUDIA COPLEIN: We're even having one-on-one conversations with team members to answer questions and address concerns.

MAI: Dr. Claudia Coplein is the chief medical officer of Tyson Foods. The company has over 100,000 workers in the U.S. alone. It faced severe criticism last year after COVID outbreaks at several of its facilities were linked to the deaths of more than three dozen workers. Now its efforts to vaccinate its workforce appear to be making a dent.

COPLEIN: So far, we've vaccinated almost 30,000 of our U.S. team members at 80 different events. And we're continuing our efforts on a daily basis.

MAI: Having businesses provide the vaccine exclusively to their workers may raise questions about equity, especially when people in some states are still struggling to schedule vaccine appointments. But Johns Hopkins public health professor Janice Bowie says workplace vaccination sites are crucial when it comes to workers that are required to show up.

JANICE BOWIE: Think about factories, plants, shift workers, people who may otherwise not have the opportunity to get the vaccine as readily as other groups.

MAI: At a time when most companies are reluctant to force workers to get the vaccine, providing financial incentives is seen as one of the fastest ways to get Americans vaccinated.

H.J. Mai, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIGHTMARES ON WAX SONG, "MORSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.