BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Niagara Partnership will host the second of a three-part webisode series Friday, helping employers to create a COVID-19 vaccine policy that works for them.
"It's really about what should an employer’s vaccine policy be, what are their rights and obligations under the law, and then how to effectively communicate with employees who may be vaccine hesitant," President and CEO Dottie Gallagher said.
Gallagher said the partnership is focused on trying to get people back to work. The regional chamber of commerce believes vaccines are the key.
"We are playing in active role on sort of that vaccine education and our channel, if you will, is the employer to the employees," she said.
As part of that targeted effort, the partnership is also actively soliciting employers that can do 50 or more vaccines at the workplace. Erie County said its department of health staff would run the pop-up point of dispensing sites.
"It's not just a matter of supply," Erie County spokesperson Pete Anderson said. "Demand is slowing and we want to make COVID-19 vaccinations as accessible as we can throughout the county. Business site PODs are similar to what we have done with senior centers, senior apartment complexes, municipalities, and houses of worship."
Gallagher said she thinks the pop-up sites could start within the next week or so.
"I will tell you, since we put the call out yesterday, we've had eight or nine employers, a couple of them very large, volunteer," she said.
Meanwhile, Gallagher said a component of the American Recovery Act should provide welcome relief to small and mid-sized businesses. Wednesday, the Biden administration detailed a plan to offer tax credits to companies with less than 500 employees to off-set the cost of paid time off for workers who get the vaccine.
"In New York state, the state has mandated up to eight hours of paid leave for each dose and that right now is being 100% funded by employers so the tax credit will relieve the burden for some of those small and mid-sized companies," Gallagher said.
She pointed out that employers can legally mandate vaccines, although there are medical and religious exemptions. However, Gallagher said the businesses she is working with are more interested in providing education about efficacy rather than forcing people who may be hesitant.
"I have not met any employer, including employers from health care, that have actually mandated this, which is their legal right but I don't see or hear that happen," she said.
Gallagher said, while she sees some movement toward getting employees back full-time in buildings, she doesn't expect real pressure to build until at least the summer.