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Blue @ Work

The COVID-19 vaccination and your workforce

Here's what you need to know.

The world as we once knew it has completely flipped upside down.

While COVID-19 has not only claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, interrupted daily lives and routines, events, social gatherings and more — we’ve also seen COVID-19 take its toll on businesses of all shapes and sizes.

The good news? There is potentially a light at the end of this tunnel — or at least a step closer to one — as the first authorized COVID-19 vaccines are being administered across Iowa and South Dakota.

It’s already difficult enough to navigate this new way of life for you and your workforce. Staying up on all the latest insights and determining the best course of action in this ever-changing climate can be daunting. That’s why, as your health insurance plan, we’ve done the heavy lifting to help you make the best decisions for your unique employee population.

Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

At the most basic level, vaccinations stimulate the immune system to create antibodies. That means, once you and your employees get the COVID-19 vaccine, immunity is developed toward the disease without having to get it first. Vaccination is a safer way to build protection against the virus External Site and other variants because the vaccine does not infect you with the virus and does not carry the same risks as contracting the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is what makes vaccines so powerful.

While getting the COVID-19 vaccine is extremely important to ending this pandemic and returning to some sense of normalcy, experts urge that getting vaccinated isn’t the only answer. Instead, to have the best chance of getting our families, communities, schools and workplaces back to normal, you and your employees should continue using the tools recommended by the CDC External Site.

Why you should encourage employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine

While there are several reasons you should encourage and educate your employees on the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine (once it’s more readily available), these are the most critical:

  1. It keeps your workforce healthy by preventing employees from becoming ill from COVID-19
  2. It reduces absence due to illness
  3. It builds immunity, safely
  4. It’s critically important to help end the pandemic

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes, it's safe. So far, three vaccines have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) External Site for emergency use. All vaccines go through numerous clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness. Both COVID-19 vaccines are currently only authorized by the FDA for emergency use. The FDA has a lengthy approval process, meaning neither of the COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved by the FDA — they are operating under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

Once a vaccine is approved for use by the FDA, continued vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for possible side effects. After someone receives a COVID-19 vaccine, they will be monitored for any negative reactions. If a negative reaction occurs and it is determined that the reaction was due to the vaccination, experts review and then decide whether changes are needed in the vaccination recommendations.

When is the vaccine available to my employees?

At-risk populations (like those living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities), along with various health care personnel External Site, received the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The federal government is distributing the vaccine to each state, and each state is in charge of developing its own plan for distribution. The distribution plan could be at various stages on any given day, based on the quantities received by the state.

Once the vaccine is readily available in your state, your employees can be vaccinated at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, hospitals, and health centers contracted with the federal government.

Will it come at a cost to my business or my health plan members?

When it comes to cost for your health plan members, the COVID-19 vaccine and its administration will be covered at no out-of-pocket cost throughout the public health emergency. After the public health emergency, the COVID-19 vaccine and its administration will be covered at no out-of-pocket cost to members as an ACA preventative service, if applicable to your health plan.

When it comes to the cost to your business, it depends on your funding type. Although there is no cost for the vaccine serum being distributed by the federal government through Operation Warp Speed, administration of the vaccine billed by providers could be passed on to your plan if you are a self-funded group.

Can I make employees get a COVID-19 vaccine? What if they decline?

This is where things can get tricky — especially if you have an employee who has certain medical conditions or religious beliefs. We recommend reviewing guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) External Site for more information on requiring COVID-19 vaccinations.

Prepare your workforce for COVID-19 vaccines

As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be developed and approved, it's important to understand the facts. Learn the latest on Iowa and South Dakota's rollout phases, vaccination costs, vaccine advocacy and preparing to safely returning to work with our free download Opens in a new window.

Stay in-the-know regarding COVID-19

As the pandemic continues and more information continues to be released, we encourage you to visit the Iowa Department of Public Health External Site or South Dakota Department of Public Health External Site for the latest updates.

If you have additional questions, or are seeking more information, contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at blueatwork@wellmark.com Send Email.