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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, February 1

Novavax coming soon, plus Hep A is back

COVID Recap:

  • Although considered milder, deaths from Omicron are actually higher than deaths from Delta - largely due to the sheer numbers of how many were infected. (Medscape)
  • A report from Denmark shows that the new Omicron sub-variant, BA.2, spreads 1.5x faster than Omicron.  It doesn’t appear to cause more hospitalizations or be more resistant to vaccines. (CNBC)
  • Moderna received full FDA approval for its vaccine and no longer is operating with an emergency use authorization.  (Huffington Post)
  • Pfizer’s vaccine could be available for kids under 5 as early as this month. (NPR)
  • Novavax applied for FDA emergency use authorization. An alternative to mRNA vaccines, Novavax uses a protein-based technology that has been in use for decades. (CBS)
  • Requirements that workers using  H2-A visas must be vaccinated may result in a shortage of migrant workers to pick ripening crops. (USA Today)
  • Two NY nurses were caught selling fake vaccine cards and uploading the data into the state’s vaccine record keeping system for $225 per card. They netted $1.5 million and now face a range of criminal charges. (NY Times)
  • In a first of its kind program, residents of New York City who are diagnosed with COVID can now get free same-day home delivery of antivirals.  (NBC New York)
  • An interesting new study shows that people need better instructions with rapid COVID tests - some who tested positive weren’t clear on needing to isolate, and others who tested negative were isolating necessarily. (JAMA)
  • Businesses in TX and FL are still navigating a minefield of opposing regulations around vaccine and mask mandates. (NY Times)
  • Only 41% of eligible Americans have their booster, but the data are clear - boosters work amazingly well to prevent serious illness. Get your booster today! (CDC)

Today’s Health News:

  • The CDC’s report on workplace absenteeism is out and December 2021 (even before the Omicron surge peaked) had nearly the highest workplace absenteeism ever recorded. (CDC)
  • Only about 85% of kids in the UK are vaccinated for Measles. Like many other countries, they lost ground on childhood vaccinations over the last two years. And the WHO says 95% of kids need to be vaccinated to control the disease effectively.  (The Guardian)
  • Anti-vax sentiment around COVID is leading to broader sentiments around childhood vaccinations, something that could lead to a resurgence of preventable diseases like mumps, measles, and others. (Washington Times)
  • COVID, winter storms and staffing shortages have led to the lowest US blood supply in more than a decade, with surgeries postponed and hospitals rationing their short supply. (ABC)

Best Question:

My employee lost their vaccination card. What can they do?

First, if they’re in certain states (including CA, NY, and many others), they can access a digital vaccination record online, or download a PDF that shows their vaccination info. If they’re in one of the states that doesn’t have that, they should check the place where they got vaccinated, and most will re-issue a new card or print out. Major pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart) all have ways to get a copy of your vaccination info. They can also reach out to their primary care doctor.

Are you seeing more employees with symptoms that could be consistent with long COVID?

Yes, across all of our clients, we’re seeing more and more long COVID. Unfortunately, long COVID can affect people who had very mild symptoms, so it doesn’t necessarily correspond with how sick someone was when they got COVID in the first place. Instead, symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, brain fog, memory issues, and more plague those with long COVID for weeks, months, and possibly longer. Your HR teams are certainly getting some practice with leaves of absence and reasonable accommodations to affect the increasing number of people who need them. Tiktoker and disability justice advocate Imani Barbarin calls COVID a “mass disabling event” and that really does seem to reflect what your HR teams are seeing out there. How long those people will experience symptoms remains to be seen.

Can we accept vaccines from other countries?

You should consult with your legal team and check the specific requirements in your local jurisdiction, but both California and the currently withdrawn federal ETS allowed not only FDA-authorized vaccines, but also WHO-authorized vaccinations. That expands the list from 3 to 10 acceptable vaccine brands. For those who use ZHH and Zedic’s Vaccine and Test Tracking system, we’ll be adding the remaining WHO-authorized vaccines to allow those who were vaccinated abroad to upload their vaccination records.

Hepatitis A appears to be back in the news much more frequently. Anything we should know?

We’re very concerned about this increase in Hep A activity.  We had hoped that the period without much activity during the first year of COVID broke the Hep A outbreak cycle.  But apparently that didn’t happen, because we’re once again seeing regular outbreaks of Hep A.  There are two concerning aspects to these new cases.  First, they have a very high hospitalization rate - sometimes up to 75% of those infected are requiring hospitalization.  That’s a new and very disturbing trend.  Second, and even more concerning, is that we have two very public cases of restaurant or foodservice transmission.  Zero Hour Health has been very successful in keeping our client’s Hep A cases out of the media.  But that’s harder to do when there’s guest transmission, or as in the two most recent cases, there were deaths associated with the outbreak (which is not common).  

What you can do to prevent a Hepatitis outbreak are all the same things that you’ve been doing to prevent the transmission of COVID - focus on handwashing, don’t let anyone work sick (especially with GI symptoms!), and make sure that your teams are aware of the symptoms specific to Hepatitis A, like  yellow eyes/skin and dark urine.

Best Read:

NY Times Opinion: What We Can Learn From How the 1918 Pandemic Ended

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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.