August 13, 2021
In the midst of new variants, rising COVID infections, lagging vaccination rates, and increasing mandates, HR Policy’s Evolving Workplace Initiative held a session providing expert assessments of the issues presented by the current spread and an outlook of what's next for COVID variants.
The call featured Dr. Julie Gerberding, Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer at Merck and formerly Director of the U.S. CDC, and Dr. Peter Nigro, Chief Employee Health Officer at Merck in a discussion moderated by Ani Huang, HR Policy’s Senior Vice President.
“COVID is winning right now”: Dr. Gerberding set the stage by noting that the Delta variant is behaving almost like a new infection, leading to a race to develop a vaccine to fight it as well as the possible need for a third dose to boost immunity. Any future variants will have the added complication of being more vaccine-resistant. Dr. Gerberding also explained that CDC guidance changes when the science changes, and that “change will be a constant” going forward.
“We are not reaching everyone”: Dr. Nigro added that companies should consider a multi-pronged communication and vaccine encouragement approach, including bringing vaccines on-site and finding the “right influencers for the right populations” within each company, then teaming with them to work through vaccine hesitancy.
In HR Policy’s August pulse survey, we found that a fifth (20%) of member respondents will mandate the vaccine, with over a third (35%) undecided. In addition, nearly half (46%) of respondents plan to delay their projected return to workplace date.
The panel addressed rapidly changing CDC guidance, the rise (and wisdom) of vaccine mandates and requirements, and the future of work in a world where COVID may become a way of life.
If you missed the panel, you can see a replay here (log-in required).
Thanks very much to all who participated, and stay tuned for future webinars and offerings as part of our Evolving Workplace Initiative.