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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 3/3

Should I be tracking my employees’ vaccinations?

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Today's Recap:

Best Questions:

What’s the deal with the new J&J vaccine? We hear it’s only one shot, but it’s less effective than the others. 

We can’t stress this enough: take whichever vaccine is available to you. Once you are vaccinated, you slash your chances of serious illness or death from COVID.

This perceived issue over the new J&J vaccine’s effectiveness isn’t as cut and dry as it might seem. First, the vaccine was approved by the FDA and recommended by the CDC because it’s safe. Second, this vaccine was tested after these new variants emerged, so it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges here; it’s hard to say how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would have performed if they had been tested at the same time as the J&J vaccine. Lastly, its important to note that the J&J vaccine is 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID. All three companies are continuing to study if a booster shot might increase their efficacy rate for moderate illness with the variants.

We do want to note that there are some key benefits to the J&J vaccine, specifically, the largest of which is probably that it’s easier to transport because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Plus, it’s only one dose, which frees up individuals from having to make another appointment to get another shot.

Should we take the J&J vaccine if it’s available to us? Why not wait for Pfizer or Moderna which are allegedly more effective? 

The best vaccine is the one in your arm. You should take whichever vaccine is available first to you. All 3 authorized vaccines are safe and effective at preventing symptomatic COVID. All 3 are incredibly effective at preventing COVID-related hospitalization and death - they basically prevent that entirely. And on a larger scale, the sooner that everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can reach herd immunity. We are still a long way from that, but having a third vaccine moved the timeline up for herd immunity a LOT, especially since it’s so much easier to transport and only takes one shot. Plus, more vaccinated people also mean that we’ll stop variants in their tracks - the virus can only mutate when it passes between many people. So, it’s safe, it will prevent you from being hospitalized or dying from COVID, and it gets us closer to ending this pandemic and getting back to normal. 

Is the J&J vaccine safe? Does it contain live virus? 

The J&J vaccine is safe. It does NOT contain any live or replicating virus. It isn’t the same type of vaccine as Moderna and Pfizer, which are both mRNA vaccines. This one uses a more traditional vaccine delivery method, which is basically just a dead version of a common cold virus with all the bad parts removed. The gene that is used in this vaccine cannot incorporate into human DNA. And it’s not even new! There’s an Ebola vaccine that uses the exact same delivery method that’s been studied and used safely on people, including children and pregnant women. 

Will people need to go back for a second dose for the J&J vaccine later?

It’s possible, but we’re not sure. A Phase 3 trial is currently studying a 2-dose series separated by 56 days. We don’t know if there will be a difference in efficacy or if it protects you for any longer. The data isn’t available yet, but the CDC will weigh in if the benefits suggest that 2 doses are better than one. Moderna and Pfizer are also working on clinical trials testing a third shot for their own vaccine, studying the same questions. 

Why do you recommend we track which employees have been vaccinated? Is that required?

We recommend employee vaccine tracking for a number of reasons, including getting excluded employees back to work sooner. Those of you who are encouraging vaccination through paid time or incentives already know you’ll need to have accurate records to reward employees as needed. Another advantage, whether you’re offering incentives or not, is that you can get employees back to work quickly and safely after they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals can skip quarantine when exposed for up to 90 days after their second vaccine dose (and after it kicks in fully). That’s a win for everyone.

Aside from these scenarios, we can also imagine other use cases, like sharing that information with a health department in the case of an outbreak, using that data to recruit new employees or encourage current employees to get vaccinated (ex. “8 out of 10 of your colleagues are vaccinated”), rewarding teams that reach a certain percentage goal (ex. “Congrats to our Pasadena location for a 95% vaccination rate!”), or helping your customers to feel safer and more comfortable supporting your business. 

Best Read:

The myth of 'good Covid vaccines' and 'bad Covid vaccines'.

Best Laugh:

If you haven’t seen this SNL skit about vaccinations, take a minute (or 9 mins) to watch it. If you did see it, watch it again… You will LOL (again).

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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.