Coronavirus vaccines are becoming more widely available, accelerating the timeline for restoring the health — and economic well-being — of the U.S. and the world. But the crisis is far from over, and automakers still have a key role to play: employee education.
Ford ran its "#FinishStrong" ad campaign during the Super Bowl last month to encourage mask-wearing through what is hoped to be the final months of the pandemic. The ad ran in states that have been hit hard, such as California, Texas, Florida, Michigan and Missouri.
Similar marketing efforts to encourage vaccinations and address common concerns can provide another powerful push in the race to reach herd immunity.
When the pandemic swept through the country last year, the Detroit 3 stepped up to build ventilators, make personal protective equipment and implement protocols for workers to safely return to plants after a two-month hiatus. Suppliers, nonunion automakers and retailers rallied, too. Now it's time for the industry to lead again by encouraging and assisting employees with vaccinations when they are eligible.
Manufacturing workers in Illinois and Detroit have became eligible for vaccines, and Stellantis plants have coordinated with local health officials to make shots available.
But availability isn't enough. Employers can't require employees to take a vaccine that is approved under an emergency authorization, which is perfectly sensible. But companies and their leaders should still communicate with workers and communities about the benefits of the vaccines.
There is a plethora of misinformation online — and likely within factory walls as well — about the safety of the rapidly developed vaccines. Combating fears and falsehoods, for some, may require more data. Others may need someone to listen to their specific apprehensions so that they can get the most relevant science and stories to calm their concerns.
Companies — and unions, where they are in place — should educate workers and lead by example, sharing photos and videos when leaders get jabs. A swift vaccine rollout is the best chance of resuming the social interactions that are central to the human experience, let alone commerce.
The industry has curbed the spread of the virus at workplaces through thorough safety measures. It's time to finish the job.