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A call to duty: Small business can lead on COVID-19 vaccinations and help bring the economy back

The rapid development of successful Covid-19 vaccines may be one of the most remarkable accomplishments in modern science. However, the Biden Administration faces what may be an even harder task in ensuring that an overwhelming majority of Americans take the vaccine. Recently, it launched a partnership opportunity with the private sector. America's large corporations will play an important role, but the real untapped resource is America’s small business owners. 

Why? 

Over 92 million people generate their livelihoods from small businesses as either an owner or an employee, representing more than one quarter of the U.S. population. According to Gallup, small business is the most trusted institution in the United States, and Americans’ confidence in small business is nearly four times higher than larger corporations. Perhaps most importantly, small business owners — and in particular business owners of color — are a trusted voice to their workers and in their communities for people who just aren’t sure yet whether to get the shot.  

With this type of reach and influence, it is critical that small businesses are supported and resourced in times of crisis. Logistical challenges in many states, pandemic fatigue, a history of racial injustice in medical care, and skepticism about the vaccine have caused some Americans to be reticent. Building our economy back better will require a rapid and far-reaching vaccination strategy, and Main Street can be a leader in this area.  

The President's call to action asks small businesses to adopt a mask policy, establish a vaccine plan for each of their employees, and amplify the importance and safety of the vaccine.  If you are a small business owner, you can answer this call to action by being a leader in raising awareness and support for the Covid-19 vaccine. Here are three immediate steps to consider. 

1. Educate Yourself and Help Your Employees Understand the Importance and Safety of the Covid-19 Vaccine: After more than a year of the pandemic, there are still confusion and misunderstanding about a virus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 83 million Americans have acquired at some point. As a small business owner, you can help counter confusing messages by getting yourself up to speed and educating your employees on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and why it is important that they receive it. In doing so, do not make blanket statements about the science being definitive. Take the time to explain why the benefits of taking the vaccine abundantly outweigh the risks. If you can, create a space for conversation beyond “water cooler” talk, such as hosting a roundtable with your employees. The CDC has developed a Covid-19 Vaccine Resource Center to help inform these discussions.  

2. Create a Covid-19 Vaccine Plan for Your Team: Unlike corporate America, few small business owners have a full-time human resources staff, and most have no help at all. Nevertheless, all businesses, big and small, need a vaccine plan. Whether you decide to encourage, incentivize, and/or mandate vaccinations depending on your industry, you should communicate that plan to your employees both verbally and in writing. If you intend to make vaccination mandatory, seek legal advice as you develop that plan. If you plan to incentivize receiving the vaccine, consider not only paid time off to get the shot, but also to recover from side effects if they occur. Another step you can take is to keep your employees apprised of updates on vaccine eligibility and where to register. The CDC has co-developed a Vaccine Finder that can help you locate a vaccine site near you. 

3. Become Ambassadors in Your Community: Once you have championed the vaccine in your business, you can become an ambassador in your community. Work with your local public health department and other government agencies to see how you can support efforts to maximize the distribution of the vaccine. In addition, you can encourage your local chamber of commerce or rotary club to host an educational conversation on this topic. 

The sooner Main Street is able to fully reopen, the sooner our economy will be on the path to recovery. It’s up to the small business owners on Main Streets to help us get to that point faster by showing leadership in a safe and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

 

This article was written by Rhett Buttle from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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