10 Take-aways from our COVID Vaccine Hesitancy webinar with the CDC’s Dr. Singleton

First, we’d like to thank both Drs. Christa-Marie Singleton and Scott Conard for making this one of our three best-ever and most popular webinars, rivalling our EEOC webinar on the new wellness rules, and our Hospital Financial Ethics/Surprise Billing webinar featuring Dr. Marty Makary and Leah Binder.

Second, the recording is available at

Most importantly, we’d like to recap the greatest hits from that webinar. While many of these are already covered in our COVID quizzes, we didn’t know some of these things ourselves. Each factoid, especially if disseminated via an employee-friendly Quizzify quiz, will help at least a few reluctant employees become more comfortable with the vaccine. In total, these could reduce the number of “vaccine hesitant” employees quite a bit.

We will be creating new questions based on this information shortly. Next steps are as follows:

  • If you are a Quizzify customer, you should see these questions in your admin panel this week, a tasting menu from which you can select/edit the questions you’d like your employees to see.

  • If you are not a Quizzify customer, you should be.

(1) The vaccine is safe for pregnant women

Vaccines have historically been made from weakened (“attenuated”) viruses. Those vaccines may not be recommended for pregnant women. Word has gotten around on social media that the same is true for COVID. However, the COVID vaccine is made from an entirely different technology. Even if there is some undiscovered and rare risk to pregnant women from the COVID vaccines, the risk of harm from COVID itself is much greater. As compared to other people in the same age group, pregnant women are known to have worse outcomes.

(2) Younger employees should get vaccinated even if they aren’t worried about COVID

Many younger employees think COVID won’t have a major effect on them. While even a mild case is debilitating, there are three very specific reasons you can use to appeal to them to get the vaccine. First, even if their own case is mild, they can still spread it to other people within your organization. It is much more considerate of coworkers to get the vaccine. Second, the more “hosts” the virus finds, the more likely it is to mutate into another variant. So it is a civic responsibility not to be a host, even if you are certain you don’t care whether you get COVID.

The third? Well, if you really want to motivate your male employees, tell them that COVID may reduce their sperm count. A guy will do anything to maintain their sperm count. In this case, to quote the immortal words of the great philosopher Henry Kissinger, it has the added advantage of being true.

(3) Speaking of variants, the CDC classifies them...and so far, so good

There are three levels of variant classification:

  • variant of interest (we need to pay attention)

  • variant of concern (more contagious or severe)

  • variant of high consequence (vaccines may not work)

So far there are no “high consequence” variants, but that makes it all the more important to encourage all your employees to get vaccinated. The longer it takes to reach herd immunity, the greater the likelihood that such a variant will develop and spread.

(4) Here are the reasons people cite for not getting the vaccine

It turns out that education is key. (“Give them the information and trust their instincts.”) Employees have to know:

  • No fetal issue is used and the leaders of every major religion support it;

  • All living ex-presidents have received it;

  • Side effects – like “COVID arm” – would be called “a robust immune system response” and mean that it’s working;

  • These social media rumors about getting Bell’s Palsy etc. after the vaccine are confusing causation with correlation (“Your fender will be bent after an accident, but bent fenders don’t’ cause accidents”), and the viral Bell's Palsy video has come under scrutiny. Nonetheless it is possible that you have a slightly higher but still trivial chance of developing that;

  • No impact on fertility has been observed;

  • It doesn’t cost any money (incredibly, that was the #2 reason cited in a CDC survey)

Being about education means it’s not about the incentives. Quite the opposite—incentives can backfire. Due to widespread employee distrust of wellness programs with large incentives, some employees assume that if you are paying them to do something, it’s in your best interest but not necessarily theirs.

However, paying non-exempt employees for time off to be vaccinated and even not counting sick days for people who get side effects as PTO could be a much more palatable approach.

(5) Employees should get the vaccine even if they had COVID

Some cases of COVID generate a stronger antibody response than others. For employees who have had COVID, It is much more convenient just to get the vaccine than to figure out if you have the antibodies. And even if you do have the antibodies, you don’t know how long they are going to last. (No one knows how long the vaccine antibodies will last either, of course. Not enough time has elapsed to know.)

(6) Hold off on the Advil before the vaccine

Advil taken in advance may possibly reduce the immune response. (This applies to people who are taking it routinely to reduce inflammation, which is a bad enough idea that it appears on our list of the Top 13 easiest employee behaviors to change.) You’re fine with it afterwards.

(7) Fear of allergic reaction should not discourage employees from getting the vaccine

Very few people get serious allergic reactions. The intake person will ask about this, and if your answer is yes, you will need to wait a half-hour after the vaccine before going home instead of the standard 15 minutes. Dr. Conard's experience is that people who don’t get reactions to flu shots won’t get a reaction to this one. (The CDC has no position on this.)

(8) Dietary supplements are no substitute for a vaccine

Some people think they can ward off COVID with various supplements. But while a disproportionate number of people with Vitamin D deficiencies show up in ICUs, gobbling Vitamin D supplements won’t reduce your odds of getting COVID. The CDC has no position on them, and Dr. Conard observed that chowing down on fat-soluble vitamin supplements like A, D and E is a decidedly bad idea, while other vitamin supplements just create “expensive urine.”

However, it is definitely the case that many people are not going outside in the sun much, and that, next to fiber, the greatest (really, only other) nutritional deficiency in the US is Vitamin D. It is perfectly fine to take 2000 international units a day. (The RDA is well under 1000 for all age groups.)

(9) Let’s finally lay to rest employee concerns about deaths from the vaccine

There are three threads circulating on the internet about deaths from the vaccine. The first is that six people died during the Pfizer trials. That is actually true…but buries the lede that four of the six were in the control group.

It’s also been reported that, as compared to the 1.2% death rate from COVID, the death rate from people who got COVID after receiving the vaccine is 1.7%. That buries the lead that only a very small percentage of people who get the vaccine do come down with COVID. So your absolute odds of dying are much lower…

…which brings us to the final piece of misinformation. The CDC has a site that collects adverse events and deaths following the vaccines. Around 3000 people died, as has been widely reported. However, the buried lede this time is that if you vaccinate tens of millions of people, especially elderly people, a small percentage (0.00167%) are going to die anyway in the period following it.

(10) The New Normal may be coming sooner than expected

To close with some good news, there is great controversy as to how soon we will achieve herd immunity. Our webinars have featured two guests of great prominence -- the aforementioned Dr. Makary and Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia -- who have taken opposing positions. Dr. Makary writes in the Wall Street Journal that herd immunity could really start to kick in within weeks, while Dr. Lipkin’s Wall Street Journal article says more than a year.

Which is it? While the CDC has no official view, Dr. Conard votes with Dr. Makary that herd immunity is closer than we think.* So, to paraphrase the immortal words of the great philosopher Bill Murray, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

*We here at Quizzify aren’t taking sides because Dr. Makary gave Quizzify a nice endorsement in his bestseller The Price We Pay (albeit this particular lede was buried on Page 226) while Dr. Lipkin is married to our CEO’s sister.