To hear an audio spoken word version of this post, click here.
“In every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members, the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”
-Justice John Marshall Harlan, Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905)
I noted back in February that America’s CEOs were “Having a Good Year.” Not just in their response to a deadly pandemic, or to the logistical challenges of remote work or feeding a nation stuck at home, but even their response to the January 6th attempted coup (Let’s stop pussyfooting around with equivocal words like “insurrection”).
The CEO crew congratulated the legitimate victor, dismissed nonsensical conspiracy theories, froze contributions to elected Capitol rioters, and generally behaved like responsible citizens facing a credible crisis of Democracy. Of course, there was some backsliding – I crossed Toyota off of my list never to be purchased or recommended again – but generally speaking, the corporate sector behaved rather well.
The Vaccine hesitancy that has been stoked by bad actors – an unseemly mix of malicious, opportunistic, and plain old stupid – has presented another chance for the corporate sector to demonstrate leadership. The track record is at best mixed.
If for no other reason than self-interest, it’s time for Corporate America to step up its Vax game – and fast. More than their new hires, companies need to get their customers, aka the public, vaccinated. Otherwise, we are going to be living through an echo of 2020, with Covid as an ongoing and perhaps even long-term drag on the economy. This will affect revenue and earnings at all companies.
Even better, as an exercise, let’s name names. Consider these 10 companies as well-situated to effect real social change relative to Vaccines. But really, any company can show leadership.
Here are the ~10 names I picked.
10 Companies That Can Improve National Vaccination Rates
4. Live Nation/TicketMaster
7. American Express
The list above includes companies that interact with the public on a regular basis. They are authoritative in their space, trusted, and above all have some leverage that can be used. It should go without saying that they should require all employees to get vaccinated or stay out of the office (Some jobs warrant firing the unvaxxed, like health care workers, but let’s save that discussion for another day).
What can these individual companies do? Here are some suggestions:
McDonald’s: Already under inflationary price pressures with a clientele that tends to be less well off and less vaccinated, a solution beckons: McDs should use allow inflation concerns to raise their prices across the board by 10% — but then offer a 15% discount for customers providing proof of vaccination. Other retail food establishments like Starbucks (whose upscale customers skew more vaxxed) can also do so. It is a win-win for everybody.
Uber/Lyft: Both ride-hailing services are public, which means there are no more VC subsidized rides. But the App is a great public interactive device, and it should show whether drivers are vaccinated or not. Customers can cancel a non-Vaxxed driver without cost. It is safer, sends a message, and gets drivers vaxxed sooner.
Walmart/Target: It is not fair to turn our frontline retail workers into enforcers; instead, companies can create an innovative program to reward the vaccinated. Proof of vaxx gets you additional bonus points on the company’s points/loyalty program. This works for all loyalty programs, from Credit Cards to Lowes/Home Depot.
Live Nation/TicketMaster: The company originally implied that vaccines were going to be required to buy tickets + attend events, but they have since moved away from this: LISTEN TO ME YOU IDIOTS WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN CONCERTS GET CANCELLED FOR ANOTHER YEAR? It’s so much in your own self-interest to take a leadership role here it’s practically malpractice they have yet to act. Use your mono0ploy power for good for a change.
AirBnB: This one is easy: Get vaxxed if you want to rent one of our homes. The disgusting filthy boorish behavior of AirBnBN guests is bad enough; must you leave your disease-ridden aerosolized virus in the air to boot? Another good use of an app that can provide info for consumers to make safer choices.
Disney: One of the few companies with tremendous ownership of their clients/audience. More than 400 children have died of Covid, it’s easy to position this as protecting the most vulnerable at their parks. They can bonus a free download of a first-run movie to new Disney+ subscribers who provide proof of vaxx.
American Express: A leader in corporate travel, there is an opportunity to provide advice, exhort in email or written communications, and generally advise users it’s much safer to travel if Vaxxed. Alternatively, JPM Chase’s Jamie Dimon can do it, continuing his streak of eating Amex’ lunch at every opportunity.
Delta: I flew Delta last week, and while the experience was good, it felt like a missed opportunity to require vaccines. The airline industry council should discuss and get everyone on board (sorry). It should be an industry-wide issue.
Apple: Long a leader in social issues, the tech giant can use their platform of Apple stores to hasten more vaccinations of their locked-in user base. And it’s the sort of thing that Apple and Google can agree to publicly — maybe even the entire FAANMG contingent.
USPS/Fed Ex/UPS.: The Postal service is not a private company, but it might as well be. It’s an opportunity to use their platform to encourage vaccinations — require all delivery people to be vaxxed and wear some patch or button along the lines of “I’m Vaxxed for your protection.”
Trip cancellation will affect Airlines, Hotels, Credit Cards, Theme Parks
Via Paul Kedrosky
This is obviously a short-list, and there are lots of other company CEOs who can step up. Leadership requires people of good-will to do the right thing for the greater good.
But there are also issues of self-interest to corporate America. If we don’t get this right, you can expect this economic recovery to be short-lived. Is that enough incentive for you corporate chieftains?
For an update on this see Found: Corporate Leadership on Vaccines
UPDATE August 13, 2021
The usually conservative The Hill writes that the costs for being “choosing not to be vaccinated” should fall on those making that decision:
Health insurance is pooled risk. If people opt-out of getting vaccinated, they are willingly exposing themselves to risks that those vaccinated are not assuming. As such, should they be paying the same health insurance premiums for their coverage? There is a precedent for differential health insurance costs, which exists between smokers and nonsmokers.
One way to manage this in the short term is to have unvaccinated people immediately be required to pay a higher deductible for any care that is primarily due to COVID-19. Cruel? Perhaps. But COVID-19 is cruel, and anyone who does not take precautions to protect themselves and others is being cruel — even unintentionally.
I missed health insurers, but it is another potential solution.
America’s CEOs Are Having a Good Year (February 19, 2021)
The Economic Risks from Anti-Vaxxers (July 15, 2021)
click for audio