COVID-19 ResponseRfR

All Retailers Need a COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

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Now that the COVID-19 Vaccine is here, retailers must have a vaccination policy and plan for their workforce. Communicating how to get vaccinated and helping employees through the process should be of the highest priority for all businesses.

As with their COVID-19 Response Plan, StrasGlobal has been proactive in researching and developing a COVID-19 Vaccination Plan to share with the industry. Resources for Retailers has made the entire, detailed StrasGlobal Vaccination Plan available on its website, including supporting templates and other tools. This research and guidance information is compiled in an effort to help other retailers, particularly single stores and small chains, get a jumpstart on developing a custom COVID-19 Vaccination Plan for their own organizations.

“It is rare that retailers have the opportunity to pro-actively save lives, and by stopping COVID-19 we do just that,” says Eva Strasburger, President of StrasGlobal. “We have seen how the COVID-19 virus has killed over two million people worldwide. Now that there are vaccines, we feel that employers should step up and do our part to encourage our teams and the communities we serve to get vaccinated. The time to stop the spread of the virus and save lives is now.

View StrasGlobal's COVID-19 Vaccination Plan
February 11, 2021 | Version 13.0 

Why employers should issue a plan:
Research from Weltek USA published in December 2020 shows that adults in the United States are looking to trusted sources for advice and information related to COVID-19 and vaccinations. At that time, employers were cited by only 10% of respondents as a top source of information, while a whopping 58% said they actually desire their employer to be a top source of information. Employers are among a very small number of sources earning this expectation, alongside healthcare providers and insurers, pharmacies, and government entities. Employers have the paramount responsibility – and opportunity – to communicate factual information and promote employee health and morale within their organizations with a clear and concise plan.

Adding to the rallying cry to disseminate a Vaccination Plan within their organizations, retailers may experience a positive consumer perception halo as well. According to retail industry consultant Michael Sansolo, “Consumers perceive retailers who encourage their employees to be vaccinated as safe places to shop”.

“We are all part of the larger community and we have to look out for each other,” states Roy Strasburger, CEO of StrasGlobal. “The guiding mission of our COVID-19 Response Plan last year was to protect our team and our community. Since March 2020, we have been playing defense in trying to block the disease and stop the spread with masks and plexiglass. Now is the time to go on offense by proactively encouraging our employees and customers to get vaccinated to save lives. So, we are stepping up with a Vaccination Plan for retail owners or HR teams to follow. We welcome feedback, and will revise our plan as more information becomes available.”

STAGES FOR DEVELOPING A COVID-19 VACCINATION PLAN

In creating their comprehensive Vaccination Plan, StrasGlobal identified six stages of planning from research to implementation and beyond:

Stage 1: Vaccination Research and Policy Guidelines

Besides researching the most current and accurate COVID-19 Vaccine information (see Supporting Materials below), there are a number of decision points during this stage including:

  • Whether to mandate or encourage employees to get vaccinated
  • Whether to incentivize vaccinations, or not, and the specifics (how much, how, when)
  • Whether to provide employees with visible proof that they have been vaccinated

Stage 2: Communication and Preparation

Once a vaccination policy has been decided, it needs to be clearly and comprehensively communicated to all levels of the organization.

Communication also includes gathering information from the employees and passing it to management. StrasGlobal is using a set of three surveys to gather information from employees at different stages pre/post vaccination. (Survey templates included in Vaccination Plan.)

Stage 3: Education

The CDC Toolkit noted below includes numerous pieces of communication that can be used to educate employees and customers on the vaccine and inform them of corporate policies.

Importantly, StrasGlobal is providing its employees with Essential Employee letters that identify them as eligible to get the vaccination as early as possible in the phased vaccine distribution plan. (Letter templates included in Vaccination Plan.)

Stage 4: Implementation

The second and third surveys determine when the employee got their shots, when the follow up shot is due, whether there were any side effects, and other relevant questions.

Stage 5:  Beyond the Company

What we do as employers affects the community around us. Whether it is family or friends, we are all interconnected. With that in mind, StrasGlobal is developing in-store promotions that encourage and reward non-employees for getting a vaccination.

Stage 6: Looking Ahead

Recognizing that the vaccination process will last months, if not years, any plan developed today will need to be updated as the situation changes, and robust enough to be effective until the current pandemic passes.  Well-researched and considered plans developed now will help employers be better prepared for any future local or national health emergencies.

The Current Status of Vaccination Eligibility & Availability

The CDC has provided guidelines about who should receive the vaccine first and who has the highest priority. They have also produced an invaluable toolkit for employers as they develop their internal and external communication plans. While the CDC makes recommendations on the priority of who should get the vaccine, each state is responsible for its own plan and in some instances, counties have modified state priorities.

CDC’s Top Line Recommendations:

  • Phase 1a: Healthcare Personnel and Long-Term Care Facility Residents
  • Phase 1b: Frontline Essential Workers and People Aged 75+
  • Phase 1c: People 65-74, People 16-64 with Underlying Medical Conditions, Smokers and Other Essential Workers

That broad Phase 1b category names grocery workers (which includes convenience store workers) as frontline essential workers. However, the vast majority of states have further defined priority groups and tiers within each phase. For example, in some states grocery workers may fall into a lower priority group within Phase 1b. Further, many states and/or counties have lowered the age restriction to 65+ and have prioritized this group into Phase 1b, thereby pushing grocery workers further down the list.

As of early February 2021, most areas of the country are making the vaccine available to those in Phase 1a and the upper tier of Phase 1b. In some areas, people not yet eligible can make appointments and/or get on wait lists for the vaccine; in other areas, those not in the eligible groups cannot even sign up for an appointment or get on a waiting list. You must check with individual state departments of health for the best and most up-to-date information since guidelines are updated regularly. For links to state departments of health go to the StrasGlobal State Resources page.

NOTE:  These are guidelines and stated eligibility doesn’t mean that those outside the respective priority tiers cannot end up getting the vaccine. It’s been reported that people outside priority groupings in many areas have been vaccinated – mostly as a result of being in the right place at the right time. This situation can happen when vaccine facilities have vaccinated all who had appointments that day and have vaccine doses left over — usually due to no-shows. Rather than throwing away the vaccine, which currently has a very short “shelf” life, some ineligible people have been able to be vaccinated. TIP: Get on as many waitlists as possible – since one never knows when their name might be called. 

The biggest vaccination problem is the availability of the vaccine itself. In some areas, and at some facilities, appointments are filled for the next thirty days and no new appointments are being scheduled. In other areas those eligible through the Phase 1b priority tier can schedule appointments but they are months away. More points of vaccine distribution are being added daily including hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and mobile facilities, but many are not taking appointments since it is still unclear when more doses of the vaccine will become available – they are all set up and ready and are just waiting for the vaccine to arrive.

On January 26, 2021 the Biden administration said it would boost supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines sent to the states by about 16% over the following three weeks and will purchase enough additional doses to vaccinate the U.S. population with these two-dose regimens by the end of the summer. In addition, as of the first part of February, a Johnson & Johnson 1-dose vaccine is close to FDA approval. So, things are looking up, but it will still be a long road to get shots in the arms of all those who desperately want to be vaccinated.

NEXT STEPS:

Regardless of when convenience store employees make it into the “eligible” group and when the vaccine will actually be available, employers need to have a plan now. Employers should be supporting national efforts to help educate and encourage employees to get their shot in the arm.

Please feel free to share this document with anyone who may benefit from it.  As the situation changes and more data becomes available, Resources for Retailers will continue to aggregate information, and publish any future updates to the StrasGlobal COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Please continue to check the site periodically. If the information shared here is particularly helpful, or if you have further questions on how Resources for Retailers can help you shape or implement your COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, let us know at rfr@strasglobal.com.

View StrasGlobal's COVID-19 Vaccination Plan
February 11, 2021 | Version 13.0 

SUPPORTING VACCINATION-RELATED RESOURCES

COVID-19 Marketing Promotions

Resources for Retailers is gathering in-store marketing materials that encourage local communities to stop the spread of COVID-19 and encourage vaccination. If you have ideas or real-world examples you’d like to share, please Email them to rfr@strasglobal.com with your name and contact information, and we may add them to the upcoming collection.

CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers

The CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit is a wonderful resource for employers developing their own COVID-19 vaccination communication plans.  This Toolkit contains the most relevant information and templates to help employers educate employees about the vaccine, raise awareness of the benefits, and address common questions and concerns. Additionally, the Toolkit also contains downloadable documents for stickers, posters, flyers and social media communication.

StrasGlobal found the information in the links below to be helpful, and suggests a review of the following that can be used to help craft a cohesive Vaccination Plan for any organization:

Handouts and information immediately useful to store-level employees:

Use of any of the above will be dependent on each employer’s individual communication strategy and needs.

NACS Special Episode Podcast

The January 2021 NACS Convenience Matters Podcast: Vaccinating Essential Workers talks with Anna Ready-Bloom (Director Government Relations, NACS) and Doug Kantor (Partner of law firm Steptoe and Johnson). They discuss what retailers need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine as it relates to essential convenience store front-line employees. In this 30-minute session they review CDC eligibility guidelines, proof of employment as a frontline essential worker, issues relative to employers mandating the vaccine, and cost questions. They stress that retailers need to be proactive.

StrasGlobal COVID-19 Response Plan and Implementation Review 2020

To meet the unprecedented COVID-19 situation in March 2020, StrasGlobal’s Executive Team and Task Force developed the StrasGlobal COVID-19 Response Plan. The StrasGlobal COVID-19 Implementation Review, May 2020 is a follow up and looks at how that plan was implemented. StrasGlobal took each action point and strategy outlined in the Response and indicates whether it was implemented or not. Furthermore, they included additional observations made during their handling of the COVID-19 crisis. This Review provides a guide to what worked for StrasGlobal in dealing with the first two months of the pandemic.

Resources for Retailers
StrasGlobal’s Resources for Retailers (RfR) is a growing collection of best practices providing solutions for problems that are common to small and mid-sized convenience store operators. Because we operate as a “small operator in many locations” and we have a thorough understanding of the industry, RfR will be a resource of reference materials, ‘how-to’ best practices, templates, and guidelines written for the independent and independent-minded retailer. RfR will provide problem-solving strategies written by experts and will deliver real-world solutions.

To receive more useful best practices, click here and sign up to receive ‘how-to’s and dispatches.