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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 12/22

Foodservice as essential workers; holiday travel; UK mutation; and Santa's vaccination status.

Today's Recap:

  • The CDC’s ACIP has provided recommendations for prioritizing who gets vaccinated first, but ultimately vaccine priority is up to individual states. Most states are following the recommendations for phase 1a, but at least 30 are still developing guidelines for phases 1b and 1c.  The CDC’s final wording does identify restaurant and food service workers as “essential workers”.
  • On Thursday, Brazil's Supreme Court ruled that the vaccine would be obligatory but Brazilians would not be forced to receive shots.
  • As Moderna’s vaccine is rolled out, you can take a look at how it works through mRNA.
  • A mutation of the coronavirus appears to be spreading more easily in the UK, leading to travel bans from other countries. This interview with a Georgetown public health expert does a great job explaining the science. A bright spot: mRNA vaccines like the Moderna one are easy to change if it mutates to the point that we need to tweak the vaccine.
  • After an early report out of China back in March, there are now 8 separate studies looking at the role that Melatonin, a simple and widely available supplement, may have on controlling COVID.
  • In many places, we need to check employee and guest temps, but you can board a plane on the honor system without any screening. As more news stories come out of people flying while knowingly COVID+, this may be a bigger concern and we know airlines are considering some tools like testing or screening in the future.
  • The CDC released a new travel planner this week, though it doesn’t go down to the city/county level which may have different rules or mandates. Still it’s a useful tool to see state by state guidelines on travel. Check it out here.
  • Despite the CDC’s holiday travel warnings, this weekend broke Thanksgiving records for travel, with over a million air travelers per day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We expect to see a major spike in cases and exposures as early as this weekend.
  • It’s confirmed, Dr. Fauci vaccinated Santa himself. Phew!

Best Questions:

Is someone immune to COVID after the first dose of the vaccine?

No. A person is not protected from getting COVID until 2 weeks after their second dose of the vaccine. That’s why it’s important to complete both doses. There’s no evidence that any level of immunity is provided from the first dose alone, because it just hasn’t been studied. Still, if there was any chance a single dose worked as well as two, you can bet these pharmaceutical companies and public health experts would have pursued it! So, it’s important to get both doses of the vaccine, and to wear a mask and practice social distancing even after your second dose. Remember, the vaccine doesn’t necessarily prevent transmission of COVID, so you’ll still need to take those precautions to protect others even after you’re vaccinated.  

And fun fact:  You must have the same brand of vaccine for your second dose as you had for your first dose for it to be effective.

Can we tell COVID from post vaccine side effects?  What happens if someone was already incubating COVID when they got vaccinated?

This can be tricky. Generally, the side effects from the vaccine start within the first 3 days after the injection and wear off after around 48 hours. The most common symptoms (other than pain and redness at the injection site) are fever, fatigue, chills, and headache, which are also COVID symptoms.

There are certain symptoms that are common in COVID that are not common vaccine side effects, like cough, runny nose, loss of taste and smell, and shortness of breath. If someone develops those symptoms after getting the vaccine, they may have already been infected with COVID-19. It’s also important to remember that the vaccine does NOT make someone test positive for COVID in any antigen or PCR tests - so if someone tests positive for COVID, it’s because they are actively infected, not because they got vaccinated.

As a reminder, no one should return to work with symptoms, even if they just received the vaccine - they should stay home until they are at least 24 hours fever-free without fever-reducing meds, and with other symptoms improving.

What's all this I’m hearing about Ivermectin? Should we be taking it?

Short answer: No.  Ivermectin is a tablet or cream used to treat parasites in humans and animals. There is no evidence that it actually prevents or treats COVID-19, and it’s not approved for that use. A very minimal early study (we’re talking petri dishes in a lab) showed that it might be able to inhibit the virus’ ability to replicate. But experts think that any amount useful for preventing COVID infection in humans could be toxic. The FDA has warned that it should not be used for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans. So, put your dog’s heartworm medication down and walk away…

Is someone who took the vaccine infectious for a period of time after they take their shot?

No.  Years ago, there were many vaccines that injected you with a small amount of the virus so that your body developed antibodies to it,  but that’s not how these vaccines work (and yes, there are still some childhood vaccines that do work that way).  Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and most of the others, too, are not made with live coronavirus.  Actually, the Moderna vaccine isn’t made with virus at all.  It’s designed to deliver instructions to your cells to create their own protection.  This type of vaccine delivery has been under development for years -  even though it seems like this vaccine was produced so quickly.  And it’s an amazing development towards eradicating emerging diseases going forward.

What should we be doing in terms of preparing for employee vaccination?

At this point, we highly recommend that you create a vaccination taskforce and focus on developing your policy and communications plan to encourage your employees to get vaccinated, as well as start thinking about systems for recording employee vaccination records. Think about ways to engage individual site-level managers as coaches or “vaccination champions,” and use your marketing team’s expertise to design a compelling internal vaccination campaign.

Best Read:

As you begin to plan your vaccination policies and communication program, this McKinsey Report is a must read or listen.  Did you know that 27% of your employees, regardless of age, will get the info they‘ll use to make their vaccination decision from social media (rather than the news, their medical provider, or the CDC)?

COVID-19 Vaccines Meet 100 Million Uncertain Americans

Best Laugh:

We’re taking Friday off (well, obviously we’re never off and have a pared down team working if you need us…).

Happy holidays!  Be safe and we’ll be back again next Tuesday with all the latest updates for you.

And last but not least... Don't forget to register for our upcoming webinar!

Webinar: Employer Vaccination & Testing in 2021
Wednesday, January 6th
3pm EST

We'll cover the latest topics around vaccination, testing, and other key employer issues in the New Year.

Register here!

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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.