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Why COVID-19 vaccine requirements may not be best approach

Virus Outbreak Washington Vaccine
Posted at 9:45 AM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 11:45:11-05

We are again looking into the idea of mandatory vaccines after United Airlines said it's considering requiring employees have the shots.

Legal issues aside, and there are plenty that would likely come from companies requiring shots, making someone get the vaccine may not be the best approach.

“I think what will be much, much more important is to offer employees an easy way to get vaccinated,” said Iwan Barankay, management professor at The Wharton School.

An economics professor and incentives expert we spoke to said companies could take more effective approaches to getting employees to take vaccines.

That could include using a form of peer pressure, like updating staff on colleagues getting vaccinated or showing testimonials of influencers at work.

“Instead, people look to their friends, look towards their peers, look to us people whom they, whose judgment they value and follow their lead. You know, we have a strong urge to conform to the behavior of others. You know, we are social beings,” said Barankay.

The other suggestion is that employers focus on barriers, either improving access by having vaccines on site or providing paid time off to get vaccinated.

“Most people don't have a lot of flexibility about when they can work. And if they have to work nine to five and the local vaccination site is open nine to five, they literally can't go and get vaccinated,” said Barankay.

The professor isn't convinced financial incentives will increase COVID-10 vaccination rates because they don't remove barriers or skepticism. They may just prompt people who were already going to get the shots to get them sooner.