Jan 12, 2022 - Economy

Unvaccinated workers more likely to miss work due to COVID

Workers unable to work previous week due to COVID, by income group
Data: Analysis of Household Pulse Survey by Aaron Sojourner and Julia Raifman; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Unvaccinated workers, particularly low-wage earners, were much more likely to miss a full week of work because they had COVID symptoms or were caring for someone with symptoms — even before Omicron, according to a new analysis of December Census data.

Why it matters: Worker absences are causing widespread societal dysfunction — school and day care closures, stores with unstocked shelves, etc.

  • Missing work for these folks typically means missing pay: Only 33% of low-income workers get paid sick leave.

The numbers come from labor economist Aaron Sojourner of the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, and Julia Raifman, a health policy researcher at Boston University who also heads up the COVID-19 U.S. State Policy Database.

The bigger picture: There’s a wide gap in vaccination status between rich and poor and it's hurting everyone.

  • 41% of working-age Americans who earn more than $100,000 are vaxxed and boosted; compared to less than 18% for those earning $50,000 or less, according to Raifman and Sojourner’s analysis.

There's room for growth: 12% of unvaxxed adults, earning less than $25,000, said they want or would consider a vaccine.

What to watch: Data from early January will track whether Omicron forced a growing percentage of vaccinated workers to miss more work.

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