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A majority of businesses and organizations on Oʻahu report having a large proportion of vaccinated employees, and that they already do or likely will require employees to be vaccinated. Those are some of the findings from a comprehensive, 41-page University of Hawaiʻi public impact research report released on August 23, by the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) and the Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19 (PAAC).

Main survey findings of “COVID-19 Mandates: Recommendations for Hawaiʻi Businesses” include:

  • Vaccination rates: Most businesses and organizations report a large proportion of vaccinated employees. More than 80% of businesses in the survey reported more than 80% of their employees have been fully vaccinated. The largest businesses of 50 or more employees reported the lowest proportion of vaccinations at their workplaces.
  • Vaccination mandate: 64.5% of businesses reported that they already do or likely will require employees to be vaccinated. More than one-third of the businesses already require vaccination of employees, and an additional 15.1% are unsure or still deciding. Main reasons why employers do not consider a vaccination mandate include employee resistance, personal preference of employer, belief that it is not legal or constitutional to mandate vaccination, and that it is not their organization’s responsibility to do so. Of the businesses that already do or likely will impose a vaccine mandate, 80% report that they did so to increase safety at work; protect employees, customers and the community; and decrease the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
  • Testing mandate: 60.6% of businesses responded that they already do or likely will require unvaccinated employees to be regularly tested for COVID-19. An additional 18.5% of businesses reported that they are unsure or still deciding.
  • Vaccine passport or requiring negative test from clients: Only 35.5% of businesses have already in place or likely will require vaccine passports or a negative test from clients or customers. Nearly half of businesses (48.5%) reported that they wouldn’t impose this requirement on their clients/customers. An additional 15.9% of businesses have not yet made a decision on this policy. Customer resistance, logistical feasibility, personal preferences and perceived business disadvantages were the main reasons given for businesses unwilling to impose this restriction.

Based on the results of the survey, the research team recommended vaccination and regular testing for employees; increasing COVID-19 testing; clear guidance for business from state government; coordination with vaccine providers; and that vaccine passports be mandated in high-risk businesses.

“The report shows very strong support for mandates across vaccination or regular testing among employees in the State of Hawaiʻi,” said Ruben Juarez, a UH Mānoa professor of economics in the College of Social Sciences and a UHERO research fellow. “Significantly, the report was released on the same day that the Pfizer vaccine was granted FDA approval—which together are very impactful and meaningful. With State of Hawaiʻi guidance to overcome logistical issues and customer resistance, these collectively paves the way for a vaccine passport in high-risk businesses.”

There were 884 businesses that participated in the August 2021 survey, with more than 95% of them located on Oʻahu. Most businesses in the survey had 10 or fewer employees (73.4%), with more than 20 sectors represented, ranging from tourism, retail, and food and beverage, to smaller offices, real estate and non-profit organizations.

In addition to Juarez, other authors of the report are Alika Maunakea, an associate professor of epigenetics at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM); May Okihiro, an associate professor in pediatrics at JABSOM and a senior pediatrician at the Waiʻanae Coast Comprehensive Health Center; and Carl Bonham, UHERO executive director and a UH Mānoa economics professor in the College of Social Sciences.

For more, visit UHERO’s website.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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