Feb 26, 2021 - Health

Employers mull COVID vaccine requirements

Illustration of a syringe suspended and held up by red tape. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly half of employers say they're at least considering the idea of requiring proof of vaccination as a condition for employees return to in-person work, according to a survey from Willis Towers Watson.

Why it matters: The gradual upticks in mass vaccinations has allowed America's workforce to begin to picture reopened office buildings.

The big picture: Federal law prohibits employers and others from requiring vaccination with a COVID-19 vaccine distributed under emergency authorization.

By the numbers: 34% of employers said they are planning or considering mandating vaccines as a condition of employment, according to the WTW report, which surveyed 494 businesses employing 6.4 million people.

  • Still, employers expect nearly two in five employees will still be working remotely at the end of 2021, compared with 57% who work remotely now, varying by industry.

Yes, but: Vaccine mandates do risk backlash, Ross Silverman, a professor at Indiana University, told Pew Charitable Trusts, and it could be better for companies to encourage vaccination and make it easily available for those who want it if possible, he said.

  • “That’s really where I think most of the conversations should be leaning, is how can you make workplaces safe as a system,” he said, “rather than trying to create a requirement for vaccination.” 
  • 65% of employers said they are planning or considering exploring vendor solutions to provide vaccines, according to the WTW survey.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that COVID-19 vaccines under emergency authorization cannot be required by employers and others.

Go deeper: There probably won't be a lot of vaccine mandates

Go deeper