For starters, there’s a huge gap in our knowledge about transmission; we don’t even really know much about how flu is transmitted after the flu shot, and we’ve been doing that for decades. We do know that the COVID vaccine reduces the chances of actually getting sick and the severity and length of illness if you do, which prevents hospitalizations and death. What we don’t know is whether this actually prevents transmission. So you may have fewer or no COVID symptoms, but still be infected with and still able to transmit the virus after vaccination, which is why you should still wear a mask and socially distance even if you’re vaccinated. More studies will be conducted as more people get vaccinated. We’ll know more in the next few months as we see real-time whether transmission is reduced or not.
It’s true that we still don’t know if you can spread the virus after being vaccinated (it just hasn’t been studied yet), but the CDC is taking an informed gamble in their guidance allowing vaccinated people to skip quarantine starting 2 weeks after their second dose for 90 days after that second dose. They think that a lot of transmission is pre-symptomatic (before you develop symptoms) rather than asymptomatic (without ever developing symptoms). Plus they think that the “individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine” may outweigh the possible but unknown risk of transmission. For this and more questions related to this new quarantine guidance, check out our full blog post on the subject if you haven’t already.
We still don’t know exactly how long the vaccine provides protection, because it just hasn’t been very long since we started studying it. Early reports show immunity lasting at least 4 months, but potentially longer. The 90 day recommendations that the CDC uses for both “natural immunity” after a COVID infection and vaccine-based immunity is based on what we know for sure, which is that both protect you for at least that long. Plus they’ve said that sticking to 90 days for both types of immunity (post-COVID and post-vaccination) helps make guidelines clearer and simpler to follow. We expect that the 90 day windows will be lengthened in the future as we learn more.
We’re right there with you - it’s a gargantuan task. Helping your employees register for their state systems is probably your best bet for now. It’ll help them to get notified when they’re eligible to receive the vaccine, when the vaccine becomes available in their area, or when there are open appointment slots. The Federal government secured another 200 million doses, but getting them to vaccinators and into people's arms is a huge undertaking, adding to employees’ confusion about why they can’t get vaccinated now.
This is a really important question to be asking. Information is power in making good personal medical decisions. We like these general COVID resources: CDC's COVID resources, the Mayo Clinic's COVID guide and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. For vaccine specific questions, try the Myths and Facts page from the CDC. Helping your employees get good information who are either delaying vaccination or are undecided will help you get a larger portion of your employees vaccinated.
It turns out that there may be one silver lining to COVID. We wiped out the flu this year. Could we do it again?