Though vaccine supplies are plentiful, more than 2 in 5 U.S. adults still aren’t fully vaccinated, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-seven percent had gotten at least one dose as of July 3, which remains shy of President Biden’s goal of 70 percent — a crucial benchmark toward reaching herd immunity — by the Fourth of July.
“Our company, like the country at large, has seen a bit of a slowdown in the number of people actually getting the vaccine,” Roger Krone, chairman and chief executive of Leidos, told The Post. “We see a huge need to gently push people who are on the fence, and give them one more reason to do it.”
Though Leidos has been spared from the widespread outbreaks seen in the grocery, meatpacking and other industries, the company said it has lost eight employees to the pandemic. One of them, Keith Redding, was among the first to die of the virus in the D.C. area. A company foundation in his name has distributed $1.8 million to the families of other coronavirus victims.
But as companies like Leidos prepare for a full return to in-person work, managers are working to guard their factory floors and office hallways against becoming points of transmission for a virus that has killed more than 604,000 Americans.
The fast-moving delta variant, which poses special risk to unvaccinated people, has upped the ante. The nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, has called it the “greatest threat” to ending the U.S. pandemic. The delta variant also moved the Biden administration to activate “surge response” teams that will deploy additional expertise and supplies to hot spots.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has confirmed that federal law, including the Americans With Disabilities Act, does not preclude companies from making vaccinations mandatory in the workforce. Some companies have done so, occasionally stirring controversy.
Other are opting for the carrot over the stick. Retail and grocery chains including Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Dollar General have used various incentives to encourage vaccinations. In most cases, the incentives add up to a few hundred dollars or a day off.
Coming off a profitable year, executives from the $14.5 billion company wanted to craft an incentive program that would make more of a splash. Krone and other executives said they chose a lottery after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), announced that he would offer five $1 million prizes to vaccinated state residents, along with four-year college scholarships for five vaccinated Ohioans younger than 18.
Leidos’s lottery will award each employee the equivalent of one year of salary. Because managers are excluded from the sweepstakes, the company estimates its outlay will be about $1 million
The company announced the initiative last Monday, along with a call for sign-ups, and has already enrolled more than a third of its workforce. Employees are not required to show proof of vaccination when they sign up.
Those with a legitimate reason to opt out of the vaccine, such as a medical condition, can still enter the sweepstakes without getting inoculated, an executive said. But the 10 winners will be required to show a vaccine card before receiving their lump-sum payment.
“In the end, in a time of crisis, what people are about is providing safety, health and security for their family,” Krone said. “I can’t wait to celebrate our first few winners.”