By Sarah Krouse
Large employers, from the meatpacking industry to airlines and
pharmaceutical companies, are getting permission from public-health
officials to administer Covid-19 vaccines, hoping to speed up
inoculations of their employees.
Many businesses see giving vaccine doses to employees at work as
a way to efficiently vaccinate staff but, in doing so, are joining
a race for scarce shots.
Pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. has begun giving staff at its
North Chicago headquarters doses, according to people familiar with
the matter, giving priority to those over 65 years old and then
workers in operations and manufacturing. Abbott Laboratories also
has begun giving doses at its nearby headquarters to eligible
workers, such as those in manufacturing, food service and daycare,
a spokeswoman said, and Tyson Foods Inc. has delivered doses to
staff at its Joslin, Ill., beef plant and to some workers in Iowa,
a spokesman said.
Other large companies registered to provide doses include energy
giant Exxon Mobil Corp., meatpacker Smithfield Foods Inc. and
machinery-makers Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co., according to
Illinois public-health records. Some of those companies run or are
planning to run closed vaccine-giving events, meaning only their
own staff are eligible, not the broader public. Sites are reliant
on state and local public-health authorities for allocations of
Money manager Fidelity Investments has registered to provide
doses at its Boston headquarters and will begin giving shots to
workers who are over 65 when it receives vaccines from
Massachusetts, a spokesman said. A third-party health-and-wellness
company will give the shots according to the state's prioritization
guidelines, he added.
Throughout the pandemic, companies have jostled for access to
safety-related tools, such as protective gear and testing capacity
to protect workers and give customers and staff more confidence in
shared spaces. Now their focus has shifted to vaccines.
Vaccine prioritization differs from state to state. In some
jurisdictions, who is eligible for doses depends purely on age. In
others, any worker in a prioritized sector, from healthcare to
manufacturing, can get a dose regardless of whether their role
involves interacting with the public, the ability to work from home
or remotely, or the type of product they work on.
Companies that want to give shots to their workers typically
have to register with public-health programs that approve who is
eligible to receive allocations of Covid-19 vaccines. In general,
the federal government allots doses to states, territories, a few
large cities and some federal agencies, who then divvy them up
among constituents or local health authorities.
Some healthcare-equity researchers say state prioritization
guidelines can be overly broad, and risk having vaccine doses given
to people who aren't at a high risk of contracting Covid-19 at work
when supply remains constrained nationwide.
Vaccination in the workplace helps remove transit and time-off
challenges for hourly workers, and it does efficiently get doses to
those in high-risk positions, such as those where social distancing
isn't possible, said Dr. Janice Bowie, professor in the department
of health, behavior and society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg
School of Public Health. It also highlights a problem with
classifying entire sectors as essential, when workers' roles,
on-the-job risks and health conditions vary widely, she said.
"This is certainly not black or white" from an ethical
perspective, given the current limited supply of vaccines
nationally, Dr. Bowie said about businesses receiving doses to give
Some healthcare-equity experts said Covid-19 vaccine
administration by employers can help speed up distribution because
it takes eligible workers out of line at public sites and eases the
appointment-making process. The challenge is that not all companies
seek or are granted dose allocations, they said.
"It's a balancing act," Mark Pfister, executive director of the
Lake County Health Department in Illinois, said of allocations to
dose administrators in his jurisdiction, which include Abbott and
AbbVie. Vaccine supply has increased since the early days of the
rollout, but many more entities now want doses, he said. His
department asks companies to give priority to workers who are 65
and older, working close together on manufacturing lines or living
in ZIP Codes hardest hit by Covid-19 hospitalizations and
Providing on-site doses gives employers better visibility into
who has received shots than if workers traveled to publicly run
facilities, corporate medical advisers say. It also saves employers
missed hours if workers have to travel to vaccine-administration
sites during business hours and saves staff the cost of lost wages,
child care and transit.
"Employers have found this is the best way to get your
population back to work as safely as possible," said Tobias Barker,
chief medical officer at Everside Health, which assists employers
with vaccination events and record-keeping.
An Abbott spokeswoman said the company is working with
public-health officials in places where it has manufacturing
facilities to offer vaccines to eligible workers when doses are
available. Any vaccine doses the company receives go only to
employees who meet government requirements for initial vaccine
phases, she said.
A Deere & Co. spokeswoman said vaccines for its employees
began last week at its five Illinois locations. It will make doses
available to production and maintenance employees at its
manufacturing units, and for salaried employees who consistently
reported to its factories or offices since March 2020, which is a
minority of such staff.
Keira Lombardo, chief administrative officer at Smithfield, said
the company and its partners can facilitate rapid distribution of
vaccines to food and agriculture workers and is doing so based on
state-specific guidelines. The company is prepared to help with
distribution to workers in other essential categories, she
An Exxon spokesman said doses would be given according to local
health-authority requirements, prioritized for those in roles
deemed critical by the company. A spokeswoman for Caterpillar
declined to comment.
Airlines including United Airlines Holdings Inc. and American
Airlines Group Inc. said they started giving doses of the Johnson
& Johnson vaccine last week to certain staff at their
respective health clinics at Chicago's O'Hare International
Airport. United said employees who live or work in Chicago would be
eligible if they are at least 65 years old or are flight-crew
members. American said its O'Hare-based mainline and regional
employees are eligible, but those with customer-facing roles would
be given priority.
The Biden administration expects to have vaccine doses available
for all adults nationwide by May, though it isn't clear when people
would be able to receive them. Increases in vaccine supply have
fanned some employers' hopes for bringing staff back to offices
Many have tried to encourage but not mandate vaccination.
Several companies with public-facing staff, from Trader Joe's to
Instacart Inc. and Dollar General Corp., have given workers the
equivalent of several hours of pay in exchange for getting
Medical advisers say offering doses on site can create a network
effect in which colleagues see their bosses or co-workers get doses
and then become more receptive to doing so themselves.
--Alison Sider contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah Krouse at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 07, 2021 05:44 ET (10:44 GMT)
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