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November 1, 2021

How many workers have quit over vaccine mandates?

Daily Briefing

    The share of workers saying their employer requires Covid-19 vaccinations has increased since June, and 5% of unvaccinated workers—or 1% of all adults—say they've quit their job because of a vaccine mandate, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll.

    Resource library: How health care organizations can navigate vaccination mandates

    Poll details

    For the poll, KFF surveyed 1,519 adults from Oct. 14 to Oct. 24 as part of the organization's ongoing Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor poll.

    According to the poll, the portion of workers saying their employer requires Covid-19 vaccinations has increased from 9% in June to 25% in October. Those with annual household incomes of at least $90,000 were more likely to report their employer implemented a vaccine mandate than those with household incomes below $40,000.

    The poll found that unvaccinated workers were generally skeptical of such mandates. Around 60% of unvaccinated respondents said that if their employer did implement a vaccine mandate, they would seek an exemption.

    In addition, 46% of unvaccinated respondents said that, under a mandate in which employees could either get vaccinated or be tested weekly, they would opt for testing. Meanwhile, 11% said they would get vaccinated, and 37% said they would quit their job. If a mandate did not allow for a weekly testing option, 17% said they would get vaccinated, and 72% of unvaccinated respondents said they would quit their jobs.

    But few unvaccinated workers say they've actually quit their jobs over a vaccine mandate. The poll found that just 5% of unvaccinated workers, or 1% of all adults, say they've done so.

    Employer data suggests real-world resignations, terminations are rare

    Experts say that while vaccine mandates have generated some concern and opposition, the number of people who ultimately refuse the vaccine is smaller than the number who say in advance they will do so, NPR reports.

    And evidence from employers who have imposed vaccine mandates so far suggests that they generally increase vaccination rates while leading to relatively few staff resignations and terminations.

    For example, at Novant Health, a hospital system in North Carolina, about 1% of staff were initially suspended for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine—but within that week, more than half of those employees received the shot and were reinstated, the New York Times reports.

    In addition, fewer than 600 of United Airlines' 67,000 U.S. employees failed to meet the company's Sept. 27 deadline to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Meanwhile, Tyson Foods, New York City schools, the National Basketball Association, and several large hospital systems across the country have all reported employee vaccination rates above 90% after imposing vaccine mandates.

    Federal employees and contractors have until Nov. 22 to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and Jeff Zients, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said on Wednesday those who don't meet the deadline will not be fired immediately.

    "For any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance, they'll go through education, counseling, accommodations, and then enforcement," Zients said. "We're creating flexibility within the system. We're offering people multiple opportunities to get vaccinated." (Groppe, USA Today, 10/28; Coleman, The Hill, 10/28; Hsu, NPR, 10/7; Farrington, NPR, 9/29; Leonhardt, New York Times, 9/30)

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