Though legally allowed under federal and state law, few — if any — major local employers plan to require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes widely available.

As vaccines for COVID-19 slowly roll out, businesses in Dane County see a light at the end of the tunnel for the economic disruptions of the pandemic. While businesses are making plans to encourage employees to get the vaccine, vaccines likely won’t be required for employees to return to the office.

At Epic Systems Corp., one of the area’s largest employers, employees often have to work in health-care settings to implement new software for clients. Brett Rehm, senior vice president of technical services, said some clients require certain vaccinations for Epic staff visiting those facilities.

“Our customers are healthcare organizations, and we follow their policies when providing services in patient care settings,” Rehm said. “For example, some customers require that our staff have a recent tuberculosis screening or a flu vaccine before traveling to their facilities. In the future they might require that our staff also have a COVID-19 vaccine.

But otherwise, large local employers, including manufacturer Stoughton Trailers, grocer Metcalfe’s Market and biotech company Exact Sciences, are all using guidelines that do not require employee vaccination. Instead they will encourage employees to get the vaccine when available, but allow employees to decide whether they will.

One UW-Madison expert said that approach may lead to higher vaccination rates within a company than mandated shots.

UW Health, where some health care workers have already begun receiving the vaccination, also does not require employees to receive the vaccine, spokesperson Emily Kumlien said. Employees who decline the vaccine are required to fill out a form explaining the reason.

Currently, 49 board members of the Wisconsin Technology Council, the nonpartisan nonprofit that advises the governor and Legislature on science and technology issues, pledged they would each receive the vaccine as soon as available to them in a resolution Thursday.

Board members agreeing to get the vaccine include Promega chief scientific officer Randy Dimond, Kimberly Clark technical vice president and chief scientist Pete Dulcamara, Madison Development Corp. CEO Lorrie Keating-Heinemann and Venture Investors executive managing director John Neis.

“We hope by providing our own review of the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines, and by these individual board members and more pledging to get vaccinated when their time comes, we can provide a strong example and enhance public confidence,” tech council president Tom Still said.

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