As more people get vaccinated, more of us are going back to work, and small business owners are starting to feel optimistic about their future. The June 2021 NFIB Foundation Small Business Optimism Index found that small business owners are feeling more positive as the economy opens up and a May 2021 Reimagine Main Street survey shows small business owners optimism is fueled by availability of vaccines. We are also seeing signs of economic progress. For example, the U.S. economy added 850,000 jobs in June, which was higher than expected.
While much of this is promising, we need to realize that this progress could be at risk, as the Delta variant is catching up with those who have yet to be vaccinated. On Monday, we saw a brief hit to the stock market showing signs that public health, the economy, and business are interlinked. Some of this is a result of many people having not received the vaccine because they are concerned about side effects, want to wait and see, or lack information. Unfortunately, some of it is being driven by irresponsible leaders who are putting our economy and Main Street at risk.
Elected officials and other leaders should be educating their constituents on why the vaccine is needed, not actively working to sow disinformation that is putting people’s lives in danger, prolonging this pandemic, and putting American jobs at risk. The amount of misinformation prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to issue an Advisory warning the American public about the urgent threat of health misinformation.
It is critical that local trusted messengers, specifically small business owners, continue to fill this void. Small business owners and other messengers, including family, friends, healthcare providers, community leaders, faith leaders, and neighbors, have educated everyday Americans by championing the vaccine in their communities.
While information on the impact of these efforts is often anecdotal, we do know it is working at the small business level. Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 73% of workers whose employers encouraged getting a vaccine have had at least one shot compared to 41% of those whose employers do not encourage vaccination. In addition, 75% of employees who were offered paid time off (PTO) to take a vaccine have gotten at least one shot compared to 51% who were not given PTO.
As cases once again rise, it is clear that we are not out of the woods yet, and misinformation and irresponsible leadership risks keeping us there. For our economy to fully reopen and Main Street to recover, it is critical that Americans get vaccinated. Small business owners and other community leaders will be key to educating and encouraging Americans to get vaccinated and build our economy back better than before.