A Verywell Report: Stagnated Vaccination Rates Lead to Workplace Mandates

Verywell’s survey of 2,000 Americans shows that the unvaccinated aren’t budging.

illustration of healthcare staff showing vaccine card on phone

Ellen Linder / Verywell

Key Themes From Our Survey

  • The proportion of survey respondents who are undecided or against getting the COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t changed meaningfully in four months.
  • Nationwide workplace vaccine mandates are helping move the needle.
  • Differing opinions on safety and precautions have left a rift in the trust between employees, employers, and coworkers.

As the U.S. heads into peak respiratory infection season, COVID vaccinations are still stalling nationwide. Only 66% of the population age 12 and over have been fully vaccinated.

Vaccination sentiment hasn't budged in Verywell Health's latest vaccine sentiment survey. One in five (23%) of our respondents remain undecided or against getting the COVID-19 vaccine, a proportion that hasn’t changed meaningfully in four months.

But workplace vaccine mandates may help in moving the needle slightly.

The data presented in this article is from seventeen surveys of 2,000 Americans asked about their thoughts and feelings towards getting the COVID-19 vaccines. We collected the latest data for the week ending on September 24. Our survey sample highlighted four types of respondents based on their answer to whether or not they’d get an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine if it were free and available: 

  • Acceptors: Those who would agree to be vaccinated but have not yet
  • Rejectors: Those who would not agree to take a vaccine
  • Undecideds: Those who don’t know if they would take a vaccine
  • Vaccinated: Those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination

Vaccine Mandates Hit the Workforce

Vaccine mandates seem to have helped individual workplaces increase the percent of their workforces that are vaccinated without the mass exodus many feared.

Of our respondents working in-person at least part-time, 62% estimate that half or more of their colleagues have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Forty-three percent say they work closely with someone who they believe is unvaccinated, and 39% say they are concerned about working alongside others who have not gotten the vaccine.

In early September, President Joe Biden announced workplace vaccine mandates, affecting more than an estimated 100 million workers: federal workers, federal contractors, any businesses with more than 100 workers, and any medical center funded by Medicare or Medicaid.

The announcement gave federal workers and employees of federal contractors 75 days to get vaccinated—until the end of November. For private businesses, though, OSHA is still writing the rules for vaccine-or-test mandates. They may not come for several more weeks, then there could be a lengthy period before they’re actually enacted.

Some states have already enacted vaccine mandates for hospital employees that have gone into effect. And they're working.

Hospitals in New York and California enacted vaccine mandates starting at the beginning of October. In California, many of the state’s largest systems have managed to get their vaccination rates up to 90%. Still, a few workers who refuse the vaccine will need to get regularly tested or face termination.

When faced with losing their jobs, even the vaccine-hesitant are getting their shots. The great workplace exodus in the face of mandates has mostly failed to materialize. 

Workers Want More COVID Protections

But others seem to be ready to change their working situation for other reasons—mostly a lack of trust in the face of indecisive or inadequate COVID protections.

Twenty-eight percent of those working in our survey say they have little to no trust in their employer to put in the proper precautions for a safe work environment. Forty-five percent feel they have little to no say in their employer’s COVID strategy.

More than half of the people in our survey who are working in person say they have considered making changes to their working situation because of your employer’s response to COVID-19.

But very few people (9%) say they are actually willing to leave their jobs.

The most popular request was a call for more protections, with 29% of respondents wanting their employers to provide more adequate personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccinations. Providing options to work from home was also high on the employee request list, with 19% saying they’ve thought about asking to work from home.

These feelings are playing out in real-time. Last week, workers at the Kellogg company went on strike at several factories after failed union negotiations and two years of working in strenuous COVID conditions. Restaurant workers are also fighting back after over a year spent serving unruly, unmasked, or unvaccinated customers. Many are walking out to protest conditions.

Methodology

The Verywell Vaccine Sentiment Tracker is a biweekly measurement of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19 and the vaccine. The survey is fielded online every other week. The total sample matches U.S. Census estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and region. It consists of 1,000 Americans from December 16, 2020, until February 26, 2020, after which the sample size increased to 2,000 per wave.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker. Updated October 13, 2021.