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Small businesses see COVID-19 vaccines for staff as booster shot to sales

COVID vaccine: Concerns between employers & employees
Potential COVID-19 vaccine plans spark new concerns between employers and its employees 04:36

Hair salon owner Antonio Maiolo wants his dozen or so staff members to become vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible. 

Maiolo, who opened his hair salon in Stamford, Connecticut, in early November, said one of his first orders of business will be making sure his 13 employees protect themselves with the vaccine, assuming they can access doses of the shot and don't have any associated health risks. 

He holds a second job at a doctor's office and counts himself among the lucky individuals who have already been inoculated. 

"Unless the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has any recommendations for you to not get the vaccine, I think it's going to be mandatory if I don't have any issue with that along the way," Maiolo told CBS MoneyWatch. 

He's hardly alone in leaning toward requiring the vaccine as a condition of employment, with exemptions for certain employees, in accordance with federal law.

Three-quarters of small and mid-sized business owners plan to either encourage or require employees to become vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a recent survey from financial services company PNC. Researchers surveyed 500 small and mid-sized businesses from January 2 to February 2. 

Of them, nearly half of the businesses surveyed —48% — said they would require employees to get vaccinated. One-third said they would provide employees with information about vaccines, and almost one-quarter — 22% — said they would even incentivize employees to get the vaccine with perks like paid time off and bonuses.

Businesses expect vaccines to boost sales

The reason why? Almost half of respondents said they expect the accelerated rollout of vaccinations will drive sales, according to the survey. 

Maiolo wants his customers to feel safe returning to the salon, especially given that staff and clients interact in close quarters.  

"My main goal is making the space as clean and safe as possible so everyone to come in and be able to enjoy their service," he said. "I would like to be able to tell all of our clients that everyone is vaccinated to provide safety for you when you come in to relax."

"A Shot of Hope": Returning to school and work 13:43

Deanie Barth, co-owner of Centurion Physical Therapy in New York City's Midtown Manhattan neighborhood, was given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine based on her occupation. Her staff was eligible early, too, and she strongly encouraged employees to get vaccinated.

One member of her team was reluctant at first, but signed up after Barth provided them with educational materials related to the vaccine and how it works against the virus. 

"That did the trick. I sent it to the employee and they made an appointment," Barth said. "We started talking about, 'Are we going to mandate it?' but I would have hated to."

Barth is relieved her whole staff is now inoculated and believes it bodes well for her business. 

"As a small business owner all you do is worry. You worry about your staff, your patients and your business, so not having to worry about the safety of my staff and in turn, ensure the safety of my patients, means a better prognosis for the business," she said.

No spot in line

Molly Moon, owner of the Seattle-based ice cream chain Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream, regrets that she and her staff are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

"I was disappointed to see our employees, who work in food service, not called out as a priority group for the vaccine," Moon said. "They don't really seem to have a spot in line other than with the general public, and I feel they should be differentiated from people who can work from home."

"A Shot of Hope": Dr. Fauci answers your questions 13:55

Her employees, who work across seven different locations, also skew young. Their average age is around 22, according to Moon, meaning they could have to wait months for their shots. 

She doesn't plan on requiring her employees to become vaccinated, but will be "very strongly encouraging" of inoculation. 

"Anyone who can get a vaccine when it's available to them should definitely get one," she said. 

"Their own choice" 

Ed McFarland, who owns Ed's Lobster Bar with locations in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York, is encouraging his employees to receive the vaccine, but ultimately leaving the decision up to them. 

New York City food and restaurant workers are currently eligible for the vaccine, but McFarland isn't mandating his food and wait staff to sign up for appointments, in part because the vaccines aren't fully approved by the FDA, but available under emergency use authorizations.

"I do not get involved with personal decisions like that. I do discuss things with them if they want me to and everybody has varying opinions," he said. "It's completely their own choice."

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