EDITORIAL: A better path to vaccination

·2 min read

Sep. 17—Just as we have opposed lawmakers telling businesses that they cannot impose a vaccine mandate for employees, we do not think the Biden administration's vaccine and testing requirement is the right approach for most businesses, either.

We favor generally — but not universally — allowing businesses to make decisions that work for them, their employees and their customers.

An exception?

We have supported the federal vaccine mandate for employees who work in nursing homes in order for those businesses to continue receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding, because they are working with a population that has shown a devastating vulnerability to this disease.

But for most businesses, we think Biden's mandate will prove more divisive than successful.

Instead, we think there might be a better way.

Tyson Foods, based in Arkansas, knows as well as any business the costs imposed by COVID-19. The company with poultry plants in Noel and Monett estimated this summer that the pandemic had already cost it $700 million; the figure is now probably approaching a billion dollars.

It imposed a vaccine mandate for all employees six weeks ago, giving most of its production plant workers until Nov. 1 to get their shots. At the time, less than half of Tyson's U.S. workforce — 56,000 out of 120,000 — were vaccinated. Six weeks after making that announcement, about 100,000 of its workforce are vaccinated.

What changed?

—Tyson has been offering incentives, including up to $200 per employee, to get vaccinated.

—It also has allowed employees to take time off to get vaccinated and held on-site vaccination clinics.

—Company officials have been having what they call "one-on-one conversations" with team members who are hesitant.

Granted, employees could lose their jobs on Nov. 1 without a vaccination, but Tyson has shown that positive incentives can help bring about compliance.

Maybe the better path is for the federal government to allow businesses to use stimulus money to provide incentives that encourage vaccinations, for example, or to provide tax breaks for companies that incur some of these costs themselves.

Bottom line: We believe vaccines are the way forward. Scientific, medical, ethical and religious arguments come down on the side of getting the vaccine. We also believe vaccinations make good business sense, keeping costs down and employees and customers safer. If a store or restaurant posted a sign that says, "All employees vaccinated," we'd be more like to frequent it.

While we disagree with the Biden approach, we should also note that we do not believe, despite the overheated rhetoric, that the federal government is our "tyrannical" enemy.

Instead, we think local, state, and federal government, working with businesses, can help lead us out of this pandemic.

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