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COVID-19 Briefing - Friday, 1/15

New resources for tracking vaccination by state, plus updates on employer incentives for vaccination

Today's Recap:

  • There are some bright spots in COVID.  A new study from Australia shows reports of foodborne illnesses were down by as much as 50% for the first half of 2020.  Decreases specifically in salmonella, campy and even e.coli.
  • In other good news, J&J expects to release data on its clinical trials of its single dose COVID vaccine in as little as two weeks.  In bad news, they’re experiencing production delays.  
  • Big tech companies - Oracle, Microsoft, and Salesforce among them - are joining forces with the Mayo Clinic and others to create a digital vaccine record or “passport”.  
  • Trader Joe’s, Dollar General, and Instacard announced that they will pay employees to get the COVID vaccine.
  • Meanwhile, healthcare facilities are struggling with workers who refuse the vaccine. They’re exploring options from incentivizing to firing employees who refuse vaccination.
  • Shuttered sports venues and tourism destinations are being turned into mass vaccination sites, from Yankee Stadium to Disneyland.
  • Several clients have reported guests refusing to wear masks because they have been vaccinated. However, we know that we will need to wear masks even after vaccination (See the CDC Q&A on this here).
  • A new UK study shows that COVID infection provides some immunity for up to 5 months.
  • The CDC has issued new guidance to help plan for reopening your offices or support centers.
  • There has been more flu vaccine distributed than ever before in the US, which could be part of why we’re seeing such a low incidence of flu.  The previous record was 174 million doses, and this year there are 192 million doses out there.  

State by State Vaccination Resource:

You’ve been asking for a resource about state by state vaccination info and registration links. We found this great resource today:

Check out this compilation of statewide vaccination plans.

It was together by Littler, an employment law firm that appears to be updated the document regularly.

You’ll find that only a few states already have something set up for employers to register their employees. Most of the rest are still in phase 1 and haven’t started collecting employer info yet.

Best Questions:

How do we figure out employee vaccinations (by state)?

This vaccination situation is still a mess.  We don't advise sending employees now for several reasons. One is the optics of putting a hostess ahead of someone's 80 year old grandma.  But the other and more significant one is that scheduling and getting appointments anywhere is extremely difficult right now... and the process employees would need to go through to schedule is beyond cumbersome (and unrealistic for many to do).  We’re confident they will work out the kinks (as more vaccines become available, the new administration streamlines it and possibly the military takes a role in vaccine administration).

Again, check out this great resource we found to keep track by state: Littler’s compilation of statewide vaccination plans.

What are you hearing about vaccine side effects after Dose 1 and 2?

After Dose 1, most people are just experiencing a sore arm.  After Dose 2 (3 - 4 weeks later), we’re hearing more about 24 hours of mild flu-like symptoms. Side effects can happen at either dose, though, and most often include mild fever, chills, fatigue, or headache.  The chaos with appointment scheduling has helped ensure we don’t have large groups of employees vaccinated on the same day, which can help stagger sick calls if people are having side effects.

Are any of your clients offering incentives to employees to get vaccinate?

Several of our clients are discussing incentives ranging from  a half day of paid time off to to $25 stipends and $50 gift cards.  Others are working hard at encouraging employees to get vaccinated and assisting them in scheduling and getting to appointments.  None of our clients have indicated they are paying hourly wages to employees for the actual vaccination to date, though we have heard of large chains doing this, like Trader Joe’s, Dollar General, and others.  This is all evolving fairly rapidly.

How important is the actual timing for Dose 2?

For Pfizer, Dose 2 is ideally 3 weeks after Dose 1. For Moderna it’s 4 weeks. Although it may be given later, it should not be given more than 4 days early (called a “grace period”). There’s very little data about how the vaccines work if you mess with the timing of the doses. We’ll stay tuned as researchers look into it to help with distribution.

How long does it take for antibodies to show up after being infected with coronavirus?

An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. To see if you are currently infected, you need a viral test (antigen/rapid or PCR, usually a nasal swab). Some insurance companies are not paying for antibody testing.

Can you still get COVID after receiving the vaccine?

When the COVID-19 vaccine is working best, it's 95% effective in preventing severe illness. However, doctors now say it may take two shots over six to eight weeks to reach that point. That means those who get the vaccine are still very much at risk of getting COVID-19 even a month after their first dose.  But more importantly, even after two doses, we have no evidence documenting that you can’t still transmit COVID.  That’s why masking and social distancing are expected to be the norm for quite a bit longer.

Best Read:

There’s been a lot about masks in the news this week and even the suggestion that during the current surge and with the variants now, one should consider double masking.  Better masks will definitely help curb transmission.

Why Aren’t We Wearing Better Masks?

Best Laugh:

Take a few seconds to watch this cute video of a baby who is definitely a child of the Pandemic...

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.