Chatham EDC recap: COVID-19 vaccine briefing for Chatham County employers

Pittsboro, NC – The recording of the Chatham County Economic Development Committee (EDC) webinar on COVID-19 vaccinations for employers is available here. The webinar begins around two minutes in. Additional resources are listed at the end of the page. See below for a recap of the presentations from Mike Zelek, Chatham County Public Health Director and Kathie Russell, Managing Partner of Russell & Associates.

COVID-19 vaccine
photo by Daniel Schludi
Mike Zelek, Chatham County Public Health Director:
  • You will be able to get a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine. Each vaccine went through rigorous testing, and that is how we know it is safe and effective.
  • The vaccine is free to everyone. Some providers may take insurance and bill insurance, but it is administered at no cost.
  • It is important to keep practicing the Three Ws: Wear, Wait and Wash. Employers should continue to encourage employees to follow it as well.
  • The Chatham County Health Department is working to ensure equitable access to the vaccine for marginalized and minority communities.
  • Supplies of the vaccine are limited, which is why there is a structured roll-out.
  • Severe allergic reactions to the vaccine are less than 5 per 1 million doses administered.
  • There is 15–30-minute monitoring period following the vaccine where you will be monitored for any reaction.
  • You could experience some temporary reactions to the vaccine, common ones being a sore arm and fatigue.
  • You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccine generates an antibody response to prevent you from infection. The second dose helps to boost the longevity of the vaccine.
  • If you have COVID, stay home. Once you are recovered, you can get the vaccine.
  • In the vaccination process, your privacy and personal information are protected at all times.
  • Groups 1, 2, and 3 are all currently eligible for the vaccine.
  • The Chatham County Health Department has a database you can enter your information in to get contacted about making a vaccine appointment. Link:
  • Other providers do have the vaccine, and you are encouraged to pursue all options available. UNC Health, Walgreens, and CVS are a few offering the vaccine.
  • Allow employees time off for receiving the vaccine and recovery time if possible.
Kathie Russell, Managing Partner of Russell & Associates. 
  • Availability of the vaccine for all US adults over 18 is expected by the end of May.
  • The time is now for employers to develop detailed vaccination plans to meet the goal of protecting workforces while remaining fully operational.
  • Businesses should develop their plan with the help and advice of legal counsel to avoid potential legal pitfalls and given that many of these concepts are highly-fact dependent and need to consider industry, company philosophy, composition of workforce, community spread, and a whole host of additional factors.
  • Consider the following ten steps when developing your plan:
    • Organize a vaccine committee – appoint the relevant people (HR or similar), make the committee the center point of contact regarding the vaccine.
    • Determine your place in line – Determine whether your business is determined as essential by the state or county to determine when your employees are eligible.
    • Consider if you will mandate the vaccine – It is legal to do so, but it can be complicated. It is better to encourage than mandate. If you chose to mandate vaccinations, consider engaging legal counsel for your circumstances. Please see the video for further considerations (timestamp: 35:40, 41:16, 43:20).
    • Consider if you will encourage the vaccine – If you do not want to mandate receiving the vaccine, consider encouraging employees to receive it.
    • Mount an effective education campaign – provide your employees with helpful and truthful information about the vaccine from reputable sources like the local health department or the CDC.
    • Will you incentivize the vaccine? If you want to incentivize your employees to get the vaccine, there are legal issues to consider such as IRS requirements, ADA accommodations, religious accommodations, and many others. If you chose to incentivize vaccinations, consider engaging legal counsel for your circumstances. Please see the video for further considerations (timestamp: 37:49).
    • Will you offer onsite vaccinations? Some larger employers may be able to establish an on-site vaccination center. Doing so may raise several legal issues related to premises liability, privacy and more. Consult with legal counsel if you are considering this.
    • Plan for post vaccination issues – Plan to allow for employees to stay at home if they are experiencing vaccine side effects. Consider staggering vaccine appointments.
    • Keep safety measures in place – continue to require masks, social distancing, and other COVID protocols.
    • Stay updated on vaccines and trends – because of the rapidly changing landscape of the pandemic and vaccines, it is important to continue closely monitoring the evolving developments and trends.
  • Can employers require the vaccine? The short answer is yes, employers can require the vaccine, but encouragement instead of mandates avoids legal risks. See the video at timestamp 41:16 for more information.
  • Requiring Proof – It is lawful for an employer to request proof of vaccination, despite the ADA’s restrictions on disability-related inquiries. Any subsequent questions may be subject to the restrictions. See the video at timestamp 42:30 for further explanation.
  • Adopting a vaccine mandate for employees still carries legal and practical risks. For full considerations, see the video at 43:20.

Q&A Session

Q: How would you address the concerns of someone who is concerned about potential long-term impacts of the vaccine that we are unaware of?

MZ: The vaccine is built from science that has been around for a long time. The COVID vaccine is a mRNA vaccine, and after triggering the immune response, the mRNA aspect quickly leaves the system. Those that were in vaccine trials have continued to be monitored and there haven’t been any to date. The point of taking the vaccine is to prevent getting COVID, which has documented long term health effects.

Helpful Links and Resources

Find out your vaccine group:

Get in the Chatham County Vaccine Database:

Chatham County COVID-19 resources:

COVID-19 Vaccine:

COVID-19 Testing:

CCPHD Website:

CCPHD Facebook:

Vaccine Poster for Businesses: Do you want the COVID-19 vaccine? 

COVID-19 Vaccine Checklist for Businesses: Checklist for Businesses

Group 3 Info: Group 3 – Vaccine Info

Group 3 FAQ: Group 3 – Vaccine FAQ