As of the beginning of May, 105 million Americans (31.9 percent of the total population) are fully vaccinated, and 147 million United States residents (44.8 percent of the total population) have received at least one dose of one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines. Some recipients of the vaccine have reported little to no symptomatic response to the vaccine, while others have described feeling lethargic, achy and/or feverish.

Although the COVID-19 vaccine reduces the likelihood of transmitting the virus,  some individuals have chosen not to take advantage of it. As we explained in a recent blog, the term for this is vaccine hesitancy, which is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services. The WHO describes it as a complex behavioral phenomenon influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.

A study published in the Journal of Community Health found that individuals who had lower levels of education, income or perceived threat of getting infected were more likely to report that they were not likely/definitely not going to get the COVID-19 vaccine. These  factors as well as social determinants of health (SDOH) both negatively impact the likelihood of a person receiving the vaccine

We at Providertech are doing our part in aiming to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy due to SDOH by participating in a study along with the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research and Phoenix-based FQHC Adelante Healthcare. The focus of the study is employing a proactive organized population-based outreach approach by leveraging health information technology with tailored navigation support to address various mistrust and social barriers.

More Ammunition: A Refundable Tax Credit Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service

To add more ammunition to the fight against vaccine hesitancy, and in an effort to encourage more Americans to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines and offset the cost of giving employees paid time off to get inoculated, the White House and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced a new tax credit for employers of small and medium-sized businesses. Part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the new tax credit also enables employers to receive a monetary break for giving workers any time necessary to recover from the vaccine.

Employers eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine tax credit consist of most businesses and tax-exempt organizations that employ fewer than 500 individuals that pay sick and family leave for leave from April 1-September 30, 2021. Some government employers also qualify for the vaccine tax credit.

An additional positive about the program for employers is that the tax credit is refundable and applied against their share of the Medicare tax. This results in employers being entitled to payment of the full amount of the credit if it exceeds their share of the Medicare tax.

How the Vaccine Tax Credits Work: Promoting Paid Leave for Employees

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the tax credit for paid sick leave wages is equal to the sick leave wages paid for COVID-19-related reasons for up to two weeks (80 hours) but is limited to $511 per day and $5,110 per employee in the aggregate (at 100 percent of the employee’s regular rate of pay).  For paid family leave wages, the credit is equal to the family leave wages paid for up to twelve weeks but is limited to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay).

As the National Law Review notes, the cost of the paid wages for COVID-19 vaccinations or recovery from them should be reported quarterly on Form 941. For further details and professional advice, the Internal Revenue Service released a fact sheet to educate employers on how to claim the paid sick leave credit on their quarterly tax filings.

Consider Employee Retention Tax Credits

An employer tool similar to the tax credit for the COVID-19 vaccine is the employee retention credit (ERC), established under the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 and amended and extended earlier this year. It’s designed to encourage eligible employers to keep workers on the payroll, even if they are not working during the covered period due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. It became effective on January 1, 2021 and covers eligible employers who operate a trade or business from January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021.

The Rationale for Incentives

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that approximately 60 percent of U.S. workers said they will probably or definitely get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to them. Conversely, almost 30 percent of respondents divulged that they’re willing to lose their job if their employer requires them to receive it.

Some individuals seem likely to be swayed by employer incentives. About 30 percent of unvaccinated employees who participated in a similar survey stated that they’re more likely to get shots if their employers offer incentives, 80 percent want their employer to give them paid time off for any potential recovery from the vaccine.

Other employees who took part in the SHRM survey prefer monetary compensation. Approximately 10 percent of U.S. employees report that they’d consider receiving a COVID-19 vaccine if their employer offered up to $150, and a little more than 20 percent would get it if they were offered more than $150.

Any employer considering incentivizing its employees to receive the vaccine, however, should perform due diligence before implementing such a program. In addition to finding the most effective option based on a specific workforce, there are multiple applicable laws to take into account when developing an incentive program.

Promoting Vaccine Management

For healthcare providers looking to streamline their vaccination process and effectively and securely communicate with patients about the benefits and logistics of the inoculation, Providertech’s vaccine management solutions are designed to help achieve successful mass vaccination. Our CareMessenger platform allows you to check-in on patients to ensure they aren’t experiencing any unexpected side effects, offering them peace of mind and better-quality care. Also, through a combination of innovative technology and our unique healthcare expertise, we can help you engage hard-to-reach populations.