Financial incentives offered by employers may help encourage COVID-19 vaccination among staff, a new study suggests. File photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
April 29 (UPI) -- Companies that offer employees incentives of up to $1,000 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 saw an increase in getting the shot, a report published Friday showed.
Just over 40% of employees at Starkey Hearing Technologies in Eden Prairie, Minn. who were unvaccinated when the incentive program was announced ultimately decided to get the shot, data published Friday by JAMA Network Open showed.
The incentive program, which also included an education program that informed employees of the safety and benefits of the shot, boosted the company's vaccination rate -- or the percentage of staff fully vaccinated against COVID-19 -- to 86% from 76%, the researchers said.
At the time the program was offered, 500 of the company's 2,055 were unvaccinated, they said.
"Giving people objective information, a meaningful incentive and personal choice can positively influence their personal healthcare decisions," Dr. Archelle Georgiou, who co-authored the report, told UPI in an email.
"As companies think about how to influence any positive health behavior, I would recommend designing programs that incorporate the key elements of this one: information, meaningful incentive and choice," said Starkey, chief health officer at Starkey Hearing Technologies.
So-called vaccine mandates, which have been implemented by some private companies as well as several local governments nationally since the shots became available, have been controversial -- but effective.
Nearly 97% of healthcare personnel who were required by their employer to be vaccinated against the flu complied with the mandate, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, companies and others who have used incentive programs to encourage vaccination have also been successful, according to previous studies.
Through Thursday, more than 82% of those eligible -- people age 5 years and older -- in the United States were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Still, less than half of the fully vaccinated have received a third, or booster, dose, the agency says.
Starkey Hearing Technologies announced its vaccine incentive-education program on Aug. 6 last year, Georgiou and her colleagues said.
The company, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world, offered all of its U.S.-based employees a $1,000 cash incentive if they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30, the researchers said.
As part of the program, employees were required to watch an online tutorial on the safety and benefits of the vaccine and were encouraged to report their vaccination status to company officials, according to the researchers.
"As employers think about how to keep their population safe and healthy, there is not a one size fits all approach," Georgiou said.
"The decision on whether to offer a financial incentive or a mandate requires thoughtful consideration of the overall context," she said.