President Joe Biden has made it one of his top priorities to ramp up the pace of vaccinations across the country, doing so in part by purchasing hundreds of millions of doses from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson alike.
Last week, Biden pledged that the United States would have enough doses to vaccinate every single adult by the end of May.
But as the president has repeatedly said, just because doses will be available doesn’t necessarily mean they will be in the arms of Americans come the beginning of summer. A number of hurdles stand in the way of vaccine administration, ranging from logistical production issues to distribution of the doses to hard-to-reach areas.
Biden hopes to ease some of these issues in the near future by signing into law his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, having successfully pushed it through Congress earlier this week. The bill provides the CDC with $7.5 billion to “plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track COVID–19 vaccines.”
As the administration calls on all Americans to get vaccinated as soon as a dose is available to them, a number of companies both large and small are beginning to offer incentives to their employees who get their jab.
With little guidance from the government on how or what to offer employees as incentives, companies have implemented varying techniques — some give employees paid time off to get their jabs, others offer a one-time stipend to employees who can prove they’ve been vaccinated, and still others will pay for workers’ Lyft rides to and from their vaccine appointments.
Here are how some companies are encouraging employees to get their COVID-19 vaccines:
Passenger railroad service Amtrak announced in early February that they will excuse absences for employees who get their vaccines during works hours, and will also give employees the equivalent to two hours of pay once they submit proof of vaccination. The company will also excuse all work absences due to adverse side effects up to 48 hours after vaccination, and will protect pay for those with appropriate documentation who are unable to work.
“We believe the vaccine offers the best way to keep our employees safe and contribute to the wellness of local communities,” the company said in a statement to Spectrum News. “Recognizing the vaccine offers the best way to protect ourselves, loved ones, co-workers, we are doing our best to ensure all employees have vaccine access while delivering a new standard of travel for our customers.”
Amtrak's goal is to have 100 percent of its employees vaccinated, the statement added.
Yogurt purveyor Chobani announced in late January that they will provide employees with six total hours of paid time off in order to get vaccinated.
Chobani President and COO Peter McGuiness explained the allotments aim to cover “three hours for each of the two COVID-19 vaccine doses when available to our workforce,” writing in a LinkedIn post: “It’s simple, fair and the right thing to do.”
At the time of McGuiness’ announcement, the single-shot vaccine regimen from Johnson & Johnson had not yet been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA.
Chobani’s policy covers its 2,200-plus workers across plant, storage, and delivery operations.
In early January, Dollar General became one of the first nationwide corporations to announce how it would compensate its employees who wish to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
Saying in a statement that leaders do “not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work,” the company is offering its frontline, hourly workers a one-time payment equivalent to four hours of regular pay once they have completed a vaccine regimen. Salaried employees will receive “additional labor hours to accommodate for their time away from the store,” the statement added.
The company is also working with the CDC to see if they can form a partnership for public vaccine distribution. While Dollar General does not have pharmacies, its 16,000-plus locations could provide “refrigeration capacity within 10 or 15 miles of our rural communities in all but four states,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.
Vaccine doses are currently available at chain stores containing pharmacies, including Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens. Details of the potential partnership between the federal government and Dollar General have yet to be announced.
“With an expansive and unique real estate footprint, within approximately five miles of approximately 75% of the U.S. population, we believe that we are well-positioned to assist in these efforts,” a statement from Dollar General read Wednesday. “Specific details regarding these efforts will be provided once finalized. We remain ready to help where appropriate.”
Beginning on Feb. 1, grocery shopping app Instacart started offering employees a “Vaccine Support Stipend” to “provide shoppers and in-store teams with financial assistance as (they) take time away from shopping to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” the company wrote in a statement.
The $25 stipend can be accessed through Instacart’s shopper app, but employees must meet certain requirements in order to qualify: only full-time, active shoppers with five completed batches within the past 30 days will be approved.
Shift leads and in-store shoppers who are employed by Instacart when they get vaccinated can also apply for the stipend.
McDonald’s is offering corporate employees and employees of corporate-owned restaurants four hours of paid time off in order to get the vaccine.
The decision does not impact franchisees, who make up the majority of McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. — the company owns only 657 of the 13,682 McDonald’s across the country, per Restaurant Business.
“Vaccination is essential in the fight against the pandemic, and we are actively encouraging McDonald’s employees to take this important step,” Tiffanie Boyd, chief people officer of McDonald's USA, wrote in a statement. “Ensuring widespread availability and access to the vaccine will require extraordinary partnerships between businesses, governments and community and health organizations, and we’re engaging with government officials and our partners to understand where McDonald’s can further support this work.”
Target announced in early February that employees will receive up to four hours of paid time off in order to get their COVID vaccines. On top of that, the company is offering free Lyft rides — up to $15 each way — for employees to get to and from their vaccine appointment
“As more vaccines become available, especially for frontline and essential workers, we’ll help our team members across the country get the information and access they need,” Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer wrote in a statement. “As we have for the past year, we’ll continue to invest in our team’s pay and benefits so they can take care of themselves, each other and our guests.”
Target has also partnered with CVS to administer COVID vaccines at locations with in-store pharmacies, and has even opened up fitting rooms at select stores to offer more appointments.
Grocery chain Trader Joe’s, which has more than 50,000 employees, announced in early January it will give employees two hours of pay per dose for getting the vaccine. The Monrovia, California-based company said it will also shift around schedules to make sure employees have time to get vaccinated.
The chain has undertaken a number of other policies to ease the health burden on its workers. Beginning Feb. 1, the company upped its hourly “thank-you” wage by $4, doubling the previous increase of $2; as of March 2, the company is offering employees an additional two weeks of paid sick leave if they show any signs of illness.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.