NAM’s announcement that employees must be vaccinated comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the U.S. In advance of the requirement, NAM staff had achieved a 98 percent voluntary vaccination rate.
The National Association of Manufacturers announced that it will require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-September, but the group will make accommodations for employees who have valid medical or religious reasons that are not consistent with vaccination.
NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons released a statement on the same day President Biden declared that all federal employees must be vaccinated against the virus, or submit to regular COVID testing and work restrictions.
“The lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines were made for us, by people like us—manufacturers in the United States. They are proven, safe, and the only way we can save lives, end the pandemic, and sustain our economic recovery,” Timmons said in the statement.
Timmons was personally affected by the virus when he lost his father in December 2020. In publicly sharing the news, he said, “Our family is now among the hundreds of thousands of grieving families who have had a loved one suddenly and senselessly stolen by COVID-19.”
NAM is one of the first associations to put in place vaccine requirements, which came about after extensive internal discussion. The group considered what its responsibility was to its workforce and what it needed to do to keep them as safe as possible while continuing to serve the manufacturing sector, said Linda Kelly, NAM’s senior vice president, legal, general counsel, and corporate secretary.
NAM’s leadership did not take the decision lightly. “Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else be first and evaluate what works for them,” Kelly said. “We felt like this was our moment to take that leadership role, and it absolutely corresponded with the best interests of our workforce at NAM.”
Earlier this year, NAM’s Manufacturing Institute, its workforce-development arm, launched the “This Is Our Shot” campaign aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among manufacturing team members, their families, and their communities. On its own staff team, NAM achieved a 98 percent voluntary vaccination rate. “There was a high level of natural acceptance that the vaccination was an important tool,” Kelly said. Since NAM announced the requirement, employees have expressed their gratitude because they see it as something that keeps them safer at work, she said.
NAM’s requirement comes just as COVID-19 cases are increasing. At a recent White House coronavirus briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy said that the seven-day average of daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed the peak seen last summer when the country did not have an authorized vaccine. Cases reached more than 70,000 on July 30, according to CDC data, and deaths rose about 40 percent in a week.
“Every organization needs to look at the specific circumstances of their own operations and their employee base, assess the risk, and evaluate what’s the best thing to do to keep people safe and to keep the members they serve safe at the same time,” Kelly said.