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Revisiting your vaccination policy

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It’s time to revisit … or maybe just visit … your COVID-19 vaccination policy.

If you’re about to express your indignation about bringing politics into Keep the Joint Running, don’t. As has been pointed out in this space before, propositions that have been politicized are not necessarily propositions that are political.

Example: 98.9% of all COVID-19 cases that have resulted in mortality or hospitalization were contracted by unvaccinated individuals.

Just in case you’re having trouble classifying this statement, it is not political.

And it does suggest the text of what should be your COVID-19 vaccination policy:

All employees who:

  • Enter our facilities …
  • Enter a client’s facilities …
  • Perform any of their responsibilities face-to-face with colleagues regardless of location …

… must be fully vaccinated. Refusal to comply with this policy can result in termination or reassignment to a position all of whose duties can be performed remotely. If the result is reassignment the company reserves the right to adjust compensation to make it commensurate with the new position’s pay structure.

This policy applies to all employees and contractors, other than those who can perform all work remotely.

Understand, I’m among those who consider the quintessential element of American culture is that we’re all free to pretty much go to hell however we’d like. But I’m also among those who agree with John B. Finch that, “… your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

But neither of these propositions is the driving force behind this vaccination policy.

The driving force is your responsibility as an employer to provide safe working conditions for everyone who works in your facilities. Every unvaccinated employee, even those wearing masks, constitutes a preventable hazard to every employee they come in contact with.

That includes vaccinated employees. While the approved vaccines have proven extraordinarily effective, in risk management terms they don’t prevent the disease perfectly. What they do is prevent it well and mitigate its effects among those who contract the virus.

So exposing even fully vaccinated employees to unvaccinated ones endangers them.

Another popular objection to mandatory vaccination is that the risks of vaccination aren’t known.

This is accurate, in the same sense that you don’t know if a piece of software you’ve relied on for the past year has undetected vulnerabilities. In both cases your confidence is limited to how well you know what risks to look for, and your ability to look for them.

What we know about the COVID-19 vaccines’ risks is that they are miniscule.

What we know about COVID-19’s risks is that the disease’s symptoms include death, severe debilitation, and months of everything you eat tasting like cardboard.

Requiring employees to be vaccinated doesn’t put them at risk. On balance it reduces their net risk.

But …

Employers are accustomed to having most of the power in their relationship with their employees, and if that’s your situation a policy such as the one recommended here might be workable.

But right now you have to strike a balance, because there’s a pretty good chance you have some otherwise valuable employees who, for one reason or another, refuse to be vaccinated.

So even if you like the policy I’ve described here, you’ll probably have to soften it to accommodate them.

Bob’s last word: If you’re concerned that a policy like this might create the impression that you’re endorsing a political party or governing philosophy, be reassured: even Fox Corporation has instituted a form of “vaccine passport.”

Regardless, please share your thoughts, and even better your company’s vaccination policy, with the KJR community by way of the Comments.

Bob’s sales pitch: On an entirely different subject, if you’re interested how to make IT process improvement initiatives successful, check out my most recent article on CIO.com: “The hard truth about IT process success.”

Comments (34)

  • “98.9% of all COVID-19 cases that have resulted in mortality or hospitalization were contracted by unvaccinated individuals.” …except in the UK and Israel, where more than half of new covid cases are in vaccinated people.

    “What we know about the COVID-19 vaccines’ risks is that they are miniscule.”…except that 5,000 people have been killed by the vaccine and some claim that’s under-reported by a factor of ten.

    Bob, why is it your “non-political” views ALWAYS side with the Left?

  • Well said, but the question really is: is it legal to have that policy? After that it requires careful writing since there are people who can’t get the vaccine for legitimate medical reasons. I would love to see a policy like yours utilized broadly.

    • No one questioned us on the legality. We just said it was up to them if they were to get vaccinated, but, if they were going to see patients (which they had to do), we had to protect the patients. So, we used the list of immunizations recommended by the CDC for healthcare professionals. The policy simply said that the only valid reason for not getting an immunization was for a medical contraindication, as determined by a physician. So, if someone brought in a note from their physician saying that they had a medical contraindication (they didn’t have to say what it was), they didn’t need to get that one immunization. In 15 year, it happened with two people – one vaccine each. Overall, we tried to make sure that everyone understood the patient’s health came first.

  • As a health care professional, I have to say that I whole heartedly agree with you, starting with that it isn’t a political statement to recommend immunization. It is a matter of safety. COVID-19 can cause hospitalization or death. To say someone should not have to get the vaccine, when they are going to expose others to themselves, is pretty much the equivalent of saying they could randomly fire a weapon without regard to whether anyone is around. In both cases, it could end up with hospitalization or death of others. So, the only responsible thing to do in any workplace is require those who are going to be exposed to others to get immunized, unless there is a medical contraindication, and encourage it in others, even if there is no exposure. In a benefit/risk evaluation, the benefits are potentially everything and the risks usually minimal (e.g., sore arm, minor flu-like symptoms for a day or so). Oh, and for those who claim their religion prohibits immunizations, they should look closely. One immunization expert looked into it before COVID-19 and found that there appeared to be only one religion that truly banned immunizations. Some religions discouraged immunizations, but didn’t ban them. And that one religion only had a few hundred in it in Europe, if I remember correctly. I had to make sure hundreds of people in my facility were immunized appropriately over a 15 year period that only ended when I recently retired. During that time, no one could come up with a religion that they belonged to that banned immunizations, although some claimed it at first (until I showed them what it said on their religion’s website). Only two people out of hundreds (thousands?) even had a medical contraindication to a single immunization, and we required about ten different immunizations. So, please everyone, tone down the politics, whatever side you are on, and think about yourselves, your family and others. I think we want to live. (Oh, and if you are wondering, I did get the immunization as soon as I could, but I still wear a mask when I’m out with people for the safety of everyone).

  • instead of Vaccinated, try using “those with Immunity”. Studies from Cleveland Clinic show that those who had COVID have just as good or better immunity as vaccinated people.

    • According to the Cleveland Clinic, “… this study was conducted in a population that was younger and healthier than the general population.” Current CDC guidance recommends that those who have contracted COVID-19 should still be vaccinated.

  • That data is misleading. Most deaths happened before Trump had even gotten a vaccine done for us to use. What would be more important to know is the current rate by strain of sarscov2 , geography, age sex and health of victims, and other pertinent factoids.

    I think when you use honest metrics you will find that the covid nonsense will turn out to be less a problem than the regular flu once we hit steady state and not fixate on the early situation when it had just started.

    Dont forget that thanks to Cuomo NY sent sick people into old folks homes to help them die faster which skews the death stats.

    As to me, I started having bad reactions to vaccines 30-40 years ago and after an extremely bad case that essentially gave me what it was supposed to be protecting me from, I swore off ever taking another vaccine ever.

    As to the covid vaccine, it is insufficiently tested in general, and not tested at all for geriatric use.
    So I will continue to say no to taking any vaccine.

    So am I stupid or ignorant.

    What I do know is that the data shows that 1.9Million more people died from the shutdown over and above all the ones assigned to covid. And anyone who had covid was said to be killed by covid even if they had other problems that actually did the killing.

    On top of that there are millions of families that had problems with finances thanks to the needless shutdown. And tens of millions of kids are now way behind in school thanks to the schools being closed too.

    It seems clear to me but not some politically oriented folks that we should all be free to decide for ourselves how much risk we wish to accept and not have big brother make bad decisions and then force them on us.

    Look at the data and you will find that face masks cause many health problems too. So mandating them is again a fascist big brother knows best approach that is bad.

    One size fits nobody.

    • “So am I stupid or ignorant.”

      You tell us, because after reading your comment I am still unsure! You can’t invoke “the data” without presenting any actual data.

      • You can find the data if you would actually read it and heed it.
        I tell you the truth. You can verify it or keep being confused by the lying lefties like fibbing Fauci.

  • 1. The earliest covid-19 study I saw seemed to say implicitly that about 48% of the people who are contagious never have ANY symptoms. (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6526/eabe2424.abstract)

    2, In the context of business, IT are essential workers who must be vaccinated and masked so that they don’t become walking “hot spots” in the organization.

  • On UK vaccine effectiveness: Public Health England publishes a weekly “COVID-19 Vaccine Surveillance Report”. The most recent is dated 22 July 2021. It directly addresses the question of vaccine effectiveness in preventing death: “Vaccine
    effectiveness against mortality with 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is around 95 to 99%
    and with 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine around 75 to 99% (week 26 Vaccine
    Surveillance Report).” (page 5). See the full report at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1005085/Vaccine_surveillance_report_-_week_29.pdf

  • Bob, I would like you to zoom out and reexamine this. Let’s think pre-Covid. There are many people that don’t get the flu vaccine or measles vaccine or etc. How have businesses dealt with those in the past? Why should this be any different?

    I’m concerned about a person’s right to privacy regarding their health choices. When interviewing for a job should a person need to disclose that they had cancer, a heart attack, AIDs, are pregnant, or etc.? By law businesses can’t ask these things. Why would vaccination status, for any disease be any different?

    If we open that door a crack just for Covid it won’t take long for it to be open wider. Business have been dealing with sickness and death of their employees for centuries. I think instead of trying to have a special policy for Covid business need to instead focus on their business continuity planning.

    If people can get fake driver licenses they can get fake vaccine cards. We can’t control other people, even though we may wish we could at times, but we can control ourselves. Pre-Covid we each decided if we were going to get the flu vaccine or other vaccines; and we each had to live , or die, as a result of our choices. I see this as no different. But maybe it reminds us of how import it is for us to have business continuity plans in place and tested on a regular basis.

    • The flu vaccine isn’t mandatory because at some point a quantitative difference becomes a qualitative difference: Mortality from the flue is a fraction of the mortality from COVID-19. The measles vaccine is, in many locales, mandatory for children entering public schools because measles is immensely dangerous. It isn’t mandatory in the employment arena because the program for school-age children has worked – adults have residual immunity from their childhood vaccinations; also, they aren’t exposed very much.

      Regarding the impact on an employee’s right to privacy, that door opened more than a crack a long time ago. Applicants for many jobs are required to take drug tests, and there are some positions for which employers may require employees to submit to drug tests.

      It’s your last point that concerns me the most, though. You appear to be saying that if individuals can find ways to break laws without getting caught or punished that we shouldn’t have laws. For example: If you want to you can, I’ve read, find plans for 3D printing plastic or ceramic firearms that TSA can’t detect. So … does this mean we should abolish the TSA and allow open-carry rules to reign as we travel from place to place?

  • Bob –

    I have come across a real-world example that your policy does not address. I am wondering what your take on it is.

    An employer is forcing all employees back on-site including those employees who can perform all their job functions remotely (as proven through more than a year earlier in the pandemic).

    Should everybody be forced (through policy) to come back on-site now even though it is not necessary for some employees for them to do their job?

    As a side note, it appears (although not publicly stated for obvious reasons) that forcing everybody back on-site is to avoid any unpleasant “discussion” with those employees that ARE required to be on-site to perform their job functions.

    In other words, should employees that have proven to able to work 100% remotely, be forced back on-site and run the (small, in your opinion) risk of contracting COVID-19?

    • I don’t want to be overly repetitive on this subject, so I’ll first suggest you review my three recent discussions: “Where your desk should be,” Thinking remotely, and The power of mythodology.

      I’ll add this: how well an employee can perform specific job functions is just one dimension of the analysis. It’s an important dimension to be sure, but there are others, for example, how important collaboration and corporate culture are.

      Put simply, there are times nothing will substitute for getting smart people together in a room with a whiteboard.

      I’ll also add that if the reason for requiring employees to work on premises is that their managers don’t trust them to work hard remotely, there’s so much that needs to be fixed before dealing with the question you pose, starting with this one: Why does the company have managers who do such a bad job of choosing employees that this would be necessary, and, for that matter, who is choosing these managers?

    • Teams work best when they are close and can communicate fast. While remote work can ‘work’ it is not as good as people being in the office.

  • You should put “approved” in quotes. These vaccines have not yet been fully approved and they don’t even have emergency approval for all ages yet. If, as a company, you require people to get an experimental gene chemo-therapy such as the Pfizer drug in order to maintain their employment, and they then suffer some side effect either now or 25 years from now, don’t you then put the corporation at risk for being liable for those side effects? We know that the pharmaceutical companies have already been indemnified from that liability and people will always seek someone to hold financially responsible for things that happen to them.

    The Supreme Court already ruled long ago (and even recently in 2002) in multiple cases that the government can force vaccinations on citizens. It even affirmed that decision years later when it used it to affirm the governments right to sterilize those that in the words of the court “sap the strength of the State” in an effort to “prevent our being swamped with incompetence.”

    This isn’t a decision that should fall on the backs of corporations who will be left standing there holding the bag if there ends up being long term side effects from these experimental vaccines. This should be a decision made by our elected leaders, making it a political issue, Bob.

    More than half of the workforce seems to have decided that the potential risks of experimental vaccines is greater than the known risks of getting COVID-19 (most of the workforce is at an age where the most likely risks from COVID-19 are a temporary loss of taste). Maybe once one or more of the vaccines have been fully approved, more people will be willing to take the risk of getting them.

    Although the CDC doesn’t seem to think the naturally acquired immunity from having had COVID-19 is sufficient, my health care provider has told me otherwise and even pointed to studies that show there may be increased risk from the vaccines if you take them after having had COVID-19. He recommended that since I already had COVID-19, I should not get the vaccine at this time. He did recommend I stay current on all my other vaccine boosters that I wasn’t aware I even needed to do as an adult. I am now fully vaccinated for all required vaccines, but do not plan on getting an experimental COVID-19 vaccine since I have natural immunity from having had the disease.

    • The vaccines have been granted a form of approval. The approval they were granted, Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), is an approval in which a vaccine’s research is done concurrently, in an expedited time frame. No step of the “standard” approval process is skipped.

      Of the ~80 drugs that have been proven to have caused long term damage, vaccines appear on that list zero times. While mRNA vaccines are comparatively new, mRNA therapy also does not appear on that 80 drug list.

      Your final appeal to authority, putting your personal doctors pedigree above that of the CDC, is a concerning fallacy.

      The vaccine is not experimental. Vaccines have no history of long term health issues.

  • As Bob knows, I have been in the middle of this since COVID started. Not only have I written books with Bob, but I somehow managed to trip into leading the COVID response for our company.

    We started with a desire to require vaccines. That idea went out the window once the lawyers got involved. True, there have been healthcare cases where vaccine requirements have stuck, but a general office has a tougher road and some remain fearful of losing employees with a mandate.

    I’m not political about this – my belief is we all need to work together to somehow get out of this mess. I am very much pro vaccine as I see it as a needed mitigation. The current vaccine is not the ultimate solution, but it is a start and serious COVID is still largely avoided if someone has been vaccinated.

    So those who want the freedom of choice are currently winning. The problem is that freedom is causing more problems than it solved. We have tried to have meetings in person with employees, but we follow the CDC guidelines of masks and social distancing for those who are not vaccinated. We now have a two class system in our company, those who do not want to get vaccinated feel they are being treated unfairly. Those who have been vaccinated want no part of the non vaccinated people. Now is this anxiety over returning to work? Perhaps, but it is our reality.

    So for me I have flipped the problem. I now ask those who are not vaccinated how our company solves this problem while still serving our customers and running our business. Again, I wonder what happened to the common good.

    When I started my career I worked in offices with people smoking. No one cared and I took heat for complaining about smokers. I didn’t care if they smoked, I cared if they smoked next to me and hurt my health. Perhaps that is where I am drawing the line with COVID.

    This is a time for leaders to lead and executives to earn their pay. The decisions aren’t easy. I remain in support of mandatory vaccines once the FDA removes the emergency status. I need to protect my employees as much as possible and try to get them working together. But I also think we need more time and it is too soon to return to the office.

    Either way, I hope the debate moves on to how we get out of this mess.

    • To end the mess just get the government out of being all knowing big brother.
      Clearly fibbing Fauci has lied and changed his mind so many times that it is clear that nobody in the government knows enough to make decisions for us.

      The initial wave was a problem. We took steps to flatten the curve. Curve flattened and hospitals saved. But then they kept changing the goal line to grab more power.

      By next year fewer people will die from covid than the flu no matter what the govt does or says.

      The real issue that the media wont report on is that 1.9 million more people died from the shut down than died from covid itself. And many of those covid deaths were dirty data when patients with covid died from other causes. So the shutdown killed some 2million more people. And it caused many other problems for people that are still reverberating. Wait until the evictions start for real. 3WTU

  • Sure mandate the vaccination, so long as the company is financially responsible for any and all adverse effects till the end of time. Most be a signed document.

  • Freedom of choice is not causing problems. Fascist big brother dictator actions are causing bigger problems than covid ever did. millions more people died from the shutdown than from covid.

  • Hi Bob, I’ve always found your posts interesting even though I have not agreed with all, this post being one of them.

    “So exposing even fully vaccinated employees to unvaccinated ones endangers them.” – how would unvaccinated endanger those who choose to take it? According to the government and pharma, those who are vaccinated will not get seriously ill so what exactly are you afraid of?

    “… in the same sense that you don’t know if a piece of software you’ve relied on for the past year has undetected vulnerabilities.” You are correct for software but your analogy is not compatible with human biology. With vaccines there is no “uninstall” feature and if it goes wrong, there is no way to fix it. You try and live for the next 20 years of your life with partial blindness, bell’s palsy, myocarditis, or the myriad of other adverse events being reported etc.

    And what exactly would a covid passport/vaccine card, being punted in various states and other countries, prove if one can still get infected and transmit the virus?

    You may/may not be aware of this but the CDC has chosen to stop tracking breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals so media claims about unvaccinated being a problem is disingenuous at worst or uninformed, skewed viewpoint at best. Rather look at Israel as their population was offered up by Netanyahu as experimental subjects and they have a large proportion fully vaccinated.

    Be aware of the tribalism you regularly refer to and ask yourself are you so entrenched in one that you are failing to acknowledge or see a different point of view. All this madness for a virus with an infection fatality rate of 0.23% – https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/99/1/20-265892.pdf – smh…

    • I lack both the time and inclination to fact check every factoid in this discussion. One here stands out: you assert an infection fatality rate of 0.23%. According to https://www.google.com/search?q=us+covid+cases&oq=us+covid+cases&aqs=edge..69i57j0i67j0i131i433j0i67j0i131i433j0i131i433i457j0.3553j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 the virus has caused 611K fatalities out of 34.6 cases.

      That computes to a fatality rate of 1.8%, which is nearly 8 times higher than the one you assert.

      I find points of view based on a factor-of-eight undercount uninteresting because they aren’t fact-based points of view.

      • I find it interesting how you selectively respond to some parts of a post and not others, one’s where you think you might have an upper hand, perhaps? Like where you have done rudimentary calculations on the “back of a napkin” as it were – all without fully understanding the context of my statement. Tsk, tsk…

        So let me enlighten you – 0.23% comes from a paper published by the WHO which was produced by Professor John Ioannidis at Stanford, one of the top and most published epidemiologists in the world. It is the mean IFR for the virus taken from multiple data sets across the world, including the USA and it applies *globally*. Had you not jumped to conclusions and taken things out of context as you often warn others to guard against, you would have realized this.

        The paper suggests that the value should really be lower due to issues in lack of accurate testing and record keeping. However, as you point out, you may not have the time nor the inclination to bother about such petty things as facts… But rather blissfully wallow in the echo chamber of the tribe you have chosen as the foundations of your great country are slowly eroded.

      • I didn’t respond selectively. I responded to a point for which I had conflicting data. Having said that I definitely should have followed the link in your post. I stand corrected.

        And yet, the 1.8% fatality rate I cited is also based on legitimate sources. What I think is going on is that the 0.23% rate you cited is a global figure based on a “study of studies” methodology that had a global focus. My numbers were U.S. only – I do sometimes fall prey to parochialism.

        I’ll leave it with this: Even the smaller number – 0.23% of all cases resulting in fatality – means that for every million people infected we end up with 2,300 corpses, which I think we’ll agree is rather a lot of dead bodies.

  • 1. Yesterday, Dr, Monica Gandhi of UCSF said that virus shedding was possible by fully vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals, hence the need for masks.

    2. Re the literature study done at Stanford referred to above, the author states:

    “I excluded studies on health-care workers, since this group is at a potentially high exposure risk, which may result in seroprevalence [blood serum] estimates much higher than the general population and thus an improbably low infection fatality rate. Similarly, I also excluded studies on ` (e.g. shelters or religious or other shared-living communities).”

    which would seem to bias, and thus undermine, the validity of the author’s statistics based conclusions, especially regarding the U.S. by excluding part of the population of interest.

  • Bob, I wish we could do it your way. But please separate or at least disentangle getting the vaccine from wanting to work remotely. Even with schools reopening under challenging circumstances (such as mask requirements not allowed in my state, and in many districts kids suddenly sent home because of contact with a case at school whether their parent is at work or not) parents and those who live with or closely associate with elderly or otherwise immunocompromised people have valid reasons for restricting their forays into the outside world. The breakthrough cases do seem to be infective, so vaccinated workers could still bring an infection home to elderly parents.

    I wish all companies could do what Dave has done. I want to focus for a moment on this statement of his: “So for me I have flipped the problem. I now ask those who are not vaccinated how our company solves this problem while still serving our customers and running our business.” I think it would require a lot of history and trust for that approach to work under these circumstances.

    Here is another of Dave’s statements: “This is a time for leaders to lead and executives to earn their pay.” It seems to me that more and more leaders just want to rake in all they can and cash out. I am seeing this in mid-level companies where my relatives work.

    Moving to another level, huge companies do not allow the local leaders to do what Dave proposes. I do have one company that to me is a good example. A relative works at Ikea, Even though their decisions are applied worldwide, they seem to me to be a model of rational thought and of care for employee welfare.

  • It think it’s instructive to look at the fatality rates based on the simplifying assumption that EVERYONE in the country has been infected:
    US 0.1891%
    Brazil 0.2601 %
    Peru 0.5872 % (Identified as source of the lambda variant)
    These figures from virusncov.com give the current minimum possible fatality rate. The true rate can only be higher in these places.

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