California-based Bolthouse Farms has two goals these days: growing carrots and achieving herd immunity to Covid-19 within its workforce.
The juice and seasoning maker is paying $ 500 to full-time hourly workers who receive Covid-19 vaccines and hosts weekly inoculation events at its main Bakersfield plant to deliver the doses. Bolthouse executives meet several times a week to review how much of their staff has been vaccinated, how many people have been infected and other metrics related to the virus.
Coronavirus Vaccines for Employees
It is among the companies large and small across the country attempting to vaccinate the majority of staff to reduce the risk of transmission on the job and ultimately relax some of the strict and costly workplace safety measures in place. have been in place for almost a year.
Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse, described his philosophy as “go bigger now because it gives us the best opportunity to achieve herd immunity quickly.” The closely held company has already spent tens of millions of dollars on security protocols that include testing, protective gear, paid time off and hiring new workers to cover when others isolate themselves, he said.
Bolthouse, like some other employers, has obtained doses of vaccines from public health officials to distribute directly to their workers. As a food and agriculture business, it is among the priority groups currently eligible for vaccines in California.
The company employs about 1,800 hourly workers at its main plant in Kern County, California, and another 300 office workers in the area. It is estimated that around 1,300 to 1,400 employees of the plant must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, a point at which a large majority of the population is protected against Covid-19, either through vaccination or natural infection, limiting their spread. (Bolthouse also urges vaccines and ensures dosages for workers in Arizona, Washington and Illinois.)
So far, about 1,100 workers at the plant have signed up for injections and, company-wide, 475 workers have received at least one dose. Bolthouse fired more than 300 additional shots on Friday.
Bolthouse asks workers to send photos of their vaccination cards when they receive the doses. Executives say it is difficult to know when the company could reach its herd immunity goal because dose supplies fluctuate and the willingness of employees to receive vaccines is changing.
Tracking workers who have been vaccinated is a challenge for companies with multiple plants and locations because states, and many counties and cities, have their own prioritization plans for who is eligible to receive the doses.
“It’s a very decentralized process,” said Eduardo Álvarez, COO of the biotech company Amyris. Inc.,
that you have provided some staff members with letters to show at vaccination appointments proving they are eligible. “The benefit and the difficulty of that is that you have the role as a company of informing employees” about when they will be eligible for vaccines, he added.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Does your company encourage employees to get vaccinated? Join the conversation below.
Amyris has surveyed its 500 US employees on their vaccination status, but does not require testing. Other employers plan to use aggregated health insurance claims to find out how many workers have been vaccinated.
Mark Smucker, CEO of JM Smucker Co.
He said his company’s insurance provider can tell executives how many workers have been vaccinated, though he doesn’t expect to have a significant presence in the office until late summer.
“By then, you would probably have some degree of herd immunity,” he said.
New strains of the virus can further complicate efforts to protect workers, introducing a new variable per year into the pandemic.
Bolthouse paid full-time hourly workers an additional $ 100 a week to recognize their role as essential workers for the past 12 months, ending the program when the $ 500 vaccine incentive plan began.
Rafaela Cisneros, a 38-year-old human resources manager, received her first dose on March 12. He was part of Bolthouse’s vaccination launch and spent weeks addressing concerns among workers who read false information on social media or were concerned about having adverse reactions to shooting.
“If I can influence one person, that person could influence another. If we can get to that number of herd immunity that the United States requires, it can return to the new normal, ”said Ms. Cisneros.
Weeks before learning it could deliver on-site fixes, Bolthouse set up a tent in his plant’s parking lot and started an employee education program. The workers, including two brothers whose father, also a Bolthouse employee, died after contracting Covid-19, are now walking around recruiting people to get vaccinated.
The company anticipated doubts among its plant’s workforce, about 80% of whom are Latino, Dunn said. The reluctance to get vaccinated among Latinos, who have been disproportionately infected by the virus, is based for some on misinformation online about the efficacy and safety of vaccines, for others on fear of incurring health costs due to the effects they can’t afford, and others are still worried about jeopardizing their immigration status if they must take advantage of public benefits to pay for health care costs, say agricultural and food worker advocates.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in February found that 48% of Latino adults wanted to wait to get vaccinated, did not want to get doses, or would get vaccinated only if it was mandatory for work, school or other activities, compared to 37% for white clothes.
“You just have to reach out and help people and understand their concerns,” Dunn said. Expect there to be a network effect caused by employees seeing their colleagues safely vaccinate at work.
It tells staff that achieving herd immunity could make some aspects of the job easier. Bolthouse has separated workers into groups with colored cords that indicate who can interact, from workspaces to lunch, and monitors worker movements throughout its plant to make it easier to trace contacts when people get sick.
Write to Sarah Krouse at [email protected]
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8