Michael Carney Michael Carney
Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


March 02, 2021


Businesses are trusted sources of information. They can help persuade employees and customers to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. This is especially important right now given the state of the pandemic and the hesitation some people have about receiving one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.


We know from research conducted on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation and others that effective messaging about testing, tracing, and vaccination is built on empathy and emphasizes three important points:

  • Do Your Part: Show local leaders and neighbors being vaccinated to build social proof. An example message includes, “Think of your closest friends and family – they'd take action.” 70% of adults in the U.S. find this message to be convincing.
  • Do It For Them: Vaccination isn’t just for you—it's to make the community safe for the people you care about. An example message includes, “Protect your friends, family, and loved ones.” 70% of adults in the U.S. find this message to be convincing.
  • Before It’s Too Late: We’re in a race against the new variants—and time matters. An example message includes, “There is a short window of time to pinpoint who else might have the virus before they could lose their health and their job.” 77% of adults in the U.S. find this message to be convincing.


Civis Analytics, a data science company, worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to test five potential vaccine message themes from employers. Given that six in ten people believe employers should be encouraging vaccination, the goal was to identify which messages made employees more—or less—likely to want the shot. Among the findings:

Most Effective

  • Managers who “lead by example” and share their own experience getting vaccinated increase the likelihood that workers embrace the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in smaller businesses.
  • Female employees were persuaded by messages about the relationship between vaccination and economic recovery. The same was true for respondents who earned more than $75,000 a year or were between the ages of 50-64.

Less Effective

  • Messages that emphasize the effectiveness of the vaccine might work in other settings, but they fell flat from employers, possibly because workers look elsewhere for trusted medical advice.
  • It sounds counterintuitive, but messages that begin with an emphasis on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines could actually decrease the willingness of employees to get vaccinated, according to the research.
  • Offering incentives may help make it easier for employees to get vaccinated, but this study suggests that employers shouldn’t use incentives as their leading campaign theme as it is more likely to prompt backlash, especially among Black or Latinx and female workers.

The big takeaway

Vaccination is a personal decision, so it’s logical that when employers show a personal willingness to be vaccinated, they are more likely to increase the willingness of their employees—across all demographic groups – to follow their lead and get the shot.

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About the authors

Michael Carney

Michael Carney

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