Last Wednesday morning, Kate, a financial tech engineer based in Michigan, used her previous four hours of paid time off to get a. Kate, who asked that her full name not be used because she fears reprisal at work, experience took more than two hours: an hour of driving, an hour of waiting, and 15 minutes of mandatory observation time afterward. “I was in a rush to get out of there,” she said because her job requires her to clock in.
Kate said her employer gives her 14 days of paid. “They said, ‘We’re already so generous with our PTO,’” Kate said. “If we’re asking for the time, then we don’t have it.“
The day after her shot, Kate experienced. “I was so out of it. I was achy all over; I was exhausted. I could barely work,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Why am I here? I’m not even helping.’” Because Kate was given the , she still needs a second dose and is uncertain how to schedule it around her workday. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I guess they take an unpaid day of vacation for that?”
Kate wishes her employer had been open toPTO for coronavirus-related appointments so she didn’t have to use her limited time off to get COVID-19 tests and the vaccine. “It doesn’t make sense not to give that,” she said. “People are so burnt out. We’ve been working for a year in a pandemic.” Her experience underscores that although the COVID-19 vaccine is accessible in the United States, there are other financial, psychological, and emotional costs to getting the shot that some employers are making worse.
Getting paid time off for your vaccine appointment depends on where you live and who you work for. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionthat employers give employees paid sick leave for COVID-19 vaccine recovery, but federal law does not require it. The , the stimulus bill signed into law on March 11, doesn’t require paid leave for vaccinations but does a tax credit to certain employers who offer it. As a result, paid time off for , cities, and individual employers. “If paid time off was based on the recovery time needed by those who participated in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, it should be 48 hours for most people.”
For example, in New York State, workers are entitled to at leastper shot. In California, full-time employees can get for vaccine-related self-care, including recovery from side effects. McDonald’s mandated for vaccination, while Starbucks is offering per dose, and Walmart says associates can get of PTO if they have adverse side effects. At Amazon, workers who experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine can take time off but .
If paid time off was based on the recovery time needed by those who participated in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, it should be 48 hours for most people, according to Deborah Fuller, a microbiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who is working on. “It’s that 48 hours where the peak reactogenicity [happens]. And by that, I mean fever, feeling crappy, soreness, even chills,” Fuller said. “By 72 hours, you can see in the data that all the stuff is just disappearing.”
Compared to how much productivity employers would lose if their employee’s, providing at least two days off for vaccine recovery is “a drop in the bucket,” Fuller said. Getting a vaccine shouldn’t impact sick leave or vacation time as it did for Kate. “Most of the sick leave we have in the is not very high to start with,” said Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. As a result, when employers ask employees to use paid time off to get a vaccine, she said, “You’re asking them tosacrifice something meaningful.”
Kate said she understands employers may be anxious that staff will use vaccine PTO to shirk work but points out that“There are ways to verify that, right? Like your leader confirms with a picture of your vaccination record.” Determining what constitutes equitable vaccine PTO would mean listening to employees about what they think would be fair, said Faith E. Fletcher, an assistant professor at the Policy at Baylor College of Medicine.
SHE SAID THAT using PTO to be vaccinated can impact hourly workers differently than corporate salaries and benefits. “That’s the verypart. People who have multiple barriers to securing broadly are also the ones who could potentially be more disadvantaged by policies by not having flexibility, by not having additional PTO or sick leave,” Fletcher said. “Health equity does not implement a one-size-fits-all approach. Equality does not equate to equity.” “Everyone I know is desperate for the vaccine but also to keep their job. choice.”
PTO is ideal, but it’s not the only way to help make vaccination accessible and equitable. Paid time off for vaccination not only helps employees, but their families, too. For Magdalena, a San Francisco-based professional who quit their job to parent full-time during the, their partner’s paid time off helped them get a vaccine.
“There is no way we could have gotten the shot without the PTO. Our son just started crawling and climbing everywhere and needs to be supervised,” said Magdalena. When the couple found out they were eligible for a vaccine, Magdalena’s partner took time off to care for their son while Magdalena worked out the logistics. “It took three hours,” Magdalena said. “One of those hours was me being on hold to get an appointment. The rest, research.”
Still, paid time off is just a starting point to making vaccine access more equitable. That requires looking beyond PTO and addressing long-standing inequalities that preventin general, such as a lack of child care, transportation, and interpretation services.
For, in particular, informed decision-making is key to achieving equity. Fletcher said employers should not promote the single-shot over the other two vaccines to reduce time away from the office. Instead, companies should , including identifying sites with accommodations such as language interpreters or handrails and ramps. And compensation shouldn’t be off. As many may lack adequate transportation, Target gives all U.S. workers up to $15 for Lyft rides to and from appointments.
Fletcher said such barriers are an equity issue, but “vaccine equity also seeks to ensure that new inequities are not created and imposed through policies and practices.” Denying workers paid time off to be vaccinated, for example, creates one more kind of inequity for people to. “Everyone I know is desperate for the vaccine but also to keep their job,” said Magdalena. “It’s a hard choice, right up there with me quitting my job to care for our baby. … It’s no hesitancy; it’s an equity issue.”