Throughout the pandemic, it’s clear that the role of HR has changed. People leaders have had to take point on unprecedented initiatives like the transition to and from remote work, returning to the office, and vaccine policies. 

Now that vaccines are clinically proven to be safe for persons over the age of 5, a return to normalcy is closer than ever before. But some are wary of mandates, and questions abound about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, especially among one of the most vulnerable populations in your organization — pregnant people.

Vaccine hesitancy is growing among pregnant people

For HR teams, vaccine hesitancy poses a particularly difficult challenge for a variety of reasons. Not only is it a difficult topic to broach, there’s a lot at stake: you don’t want to judge or alienate any of your employees, nor can you force them into making a decision about their health short of a mandate.

The fact remains that only 26% of pregnant people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 66% of adults nationwide. Studies show that pregnant people are at higher risk for serious illness due to COVID-19. This disparity exists despite clear-cut clinical guidance from the CDC, ACOG, and SMFM advising pregnant people that it’s safe and recommended to get the vaccine for the health of themselves and their unborn children. So how can you navigate such a tense discussion? Start with the facts.

A new survey reveals the story

Maven commissioned a survey of 500 U.S.-based pregnant women to understand how they’re making decisions about the vaccine. The results showed clear takeaways that can inform how you approach conversations with your employees:

  • 61% of respondents were unaware of the latest CDC guidance for pregnant people
  • Nearly 70% of respondents said at least one source suggested they avoid receiving the COVID vaccine. 
  • 68% of respondents said they don’t plan to receive the vaccine while pregnant.
  • 36% of respondents said they don’t plan to ever get the vaccine.
  • 28% felt that there was a lack of sufficient information on the effects of the vaccine.

The problem is clear: pregnant people are less likely to get vaccinated than their non-pregnant peers, and much of their hesitancy stems from concerns about the health of their unborn children. They’re being hit with conflicting information and competing opinions from friends, family, and medical professionals. So what does that mean for HR teams?

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1. Listen first, and have empathy

Pregnant people are often inundated with competing ideas and opinions about what’s best for them and their child: healthcare providers, family, friends, social media, coworkers, and the news play a role in the information they receive. Remember, your goal is to help them make the best choice for them and their family.

Start the conversation by listening: if they’re coming to you with their concerns, whether it’s about a potential mandate or because they’re seeking advice, it’s crucial that you create a safe environment for them to share their thoughts and opinions. Understand that becoming a parent during a global pandemic is an incredibly stressful endeavor, and that by and large all expecting parents want what’s best for their unborn child.

Read more: Maven CMO Neel Shah on talking to pregnant women about the vaccine

2. Communicate your policies clearly

If your organization is devising policies about the vaccine and returning to the office, whether they’re required, suggested, or encouraged, make sure you’re clearly communicating what your expectations are so pregnant people have the time and resources to make appropriate preparations.

Much like working parents, pregnant people have unique needs and perspectives on what returning to the office looks like, and need time to adjust to major changes in their lifestyle as they prepare for their newborn. Ensure your employees are aware of their benefits and can take advantage of your health and wellness offerings, vaccine-related or not.

Related: Simple strategies to improve open enrollment engagement

3. Provide education and access to resources

According to our survey, more than half of pregnant people are unaware of the current clinical guidance regarding vaccination. Misinformation about the vaccine, whether intentional or otherwise, is rampant, and many of us are subject to its effects. 

Provide pregnant employees with clinically vetted resources from credible institutions. Avoid news articles, opinion sites, or social media posts, as they may unintentionally provide pregnant people with misleading or incorrect information. Some great resources include:

4. Address barriers to high quality perinatal care

Beyond initial conversations, it’s important your organization considers the underlying issues behind vaccine hesitancy: the lack of trust parents have in their providers and medical institutions. Decreasing availability of care among underserved groups, widening disparities in the financial and social determinants of health, and the fragmented traditional system of maternal care, contribute to an environment in which pregnant parents often lack access to the care they need to make the best decisions for their families.

Providing expecting, aspiring, and current parents in your workplace with a virtual family care solution like Maven can provide them with 24/7 access to family health specialists, who can guide them through their journeys through parenthood with trustworthy and culturally humble care, as well as clinically vetted information. 

To find out how Maven can help you prepare pregnant employees to return to the office and prepare for a happy and healthy path to parenthood, request a demo today.

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