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The Executive Briefing - Friday, October 1

What messaging works to convince people to get vaccinated?

COVID Recap:

  • YouTube has banned all content that spreads vaccine misinformation. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Lots of people say they’ll quit over a vaccine mandate, but research shows that few actually do. (NPR)
  • In just 2 months, Tyson foods has gone from less than 50% vaccinated to 91% fully vaccinated through a company mandate. (New York Times)
  • The CDC called for “urgent action” for pregnant women to get vaccinated for COVID, citing the dangerous risks of getting the virus, including pregnancy complications, illness and death. (CDC)
  • Some very good news: Merck’s antiviral pill slashed the hospitalization of COVID patients by 50% when taken within 5 days of symptom onset.  They’ve now submitted to the FDA for approval.(STAT)
  • Long COVID is a bigger problem than we thought - affecting nearly 1 in 3 people who’ve had COVID. (CNN)
  • Beijing winter Olympics will go forward with a strict “closed-loop bubble.” (New York Times)
  • More fake vaccination cards are out there and being seized by authorities. (NBC)
  • A doctor in CT has had her license suspended after she was sending blank CDC vaccine cards to anyone who mailed her a pre-addressed envelope. (MedPage Today)
  • The NBA is grappling with misinformation and vaccine hesitancy with some of its star players. It will come to a head in the next few weeks as the season starts. (Rolling Stone)
  • Asia, which was originally slow in rolling out vaccines, has now surpassed the US in vaccination rates. (New York Times)
  • California’s Gov. Newsom announced a vaccine mandate for all eligible school children, to take effect once it’s fully approved by the FDA for those 12 and up. This is the first K-12 vaccine mandate in the country. (LA Times)

Today’s Health News:

  • The Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak has grown in the last week to over 400 cases and 66 hospitalizations in 35 states (6 new ones).  While cilantro was originally suspected, there are some signs that it might be a mixed veg source.  (CDC)
  • China has reported it’s 21st fatal case of H5N6 avian flu, this time killing a 26 year old woman who had contact with poultry. (CIDRAP)
  • A human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a mosquito-transmitted disease, was reported in New Jersey. It can’t be passed person to person. (CIDRAP)
  • Valley Fever, a deadly fungal disease, is spreading through a hotter, drier Western US. It’s spread through contact with soil, which is freezing less and leading to more infections.  (WIRED)

Best Questions:

What is the deadline for Federal contractors to comply with their vaccination mandate?

As with all legal questions, please consult your counsel. But here’s what we’ve learned to date: all federal contractors have until December 8th to comply with an employee vaccination mandate, which requires full vaccination.  

On September 24th, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued much-anticipated guidance around COVID-19 workplace safety requirements for federal contractors. The guidance is in response to President Biden’s Executive Order which, among other things, directed the task force to mandate that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated for COVID.  The guidance does NOT permit employees to submit to COVID testing as an alternative to being vaccinated, nor does it provide an exception for employees who work remotely or who have already had COVID.

Employers must provide accommodations to employees who can’t be vaccinated due to a disability or a “sincerely held” religious belief, with the contractor responsible for determining if an accommodation should be granted. The guidance clearly states that employers are not responsible for obtaining vaccinations for employees but are required to obtain proof of vaccination. An antibody test is not a sufficient substitute. Here’s a link to an article from Fisher Phillips with more detail on this.

What actually convinces unvaccinated employees to get the shot?

According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, the top four reasons behind the recent uptick in vaccinations: fears around the Delta variant, knowing someone who got sick or died from COVID, concerns about reports of local hospitals and ICU filling up with COVID patients, and wanting to go to places and events that require vaccination, like bars, restaurants, and concerts. Knowing this can help you hone your messaging for those who are still in the “moveable middle” that might still be convinced to get the vaccine.

Is there one message that resonates more than others with unvaccinated managers, specifically?

Yes.  According to Dr. LJ Tan of Immunize.org, understanding the potential financial impact to their location, employees or themselves is powerful.  What would an outbreak cost you and your team?  If there were an outbreak, a restaurant or business might need to shut down.  Even if it can remain open, minimally there would be reputation damage. Existing staffing issues become worse when employees need to be excluded for close contact or  quarantine. And, there’s potential liability if a guest or customer contracts COVID and decides to sue.

Who is considered “fully vaccinated” now that we have booster doses for some people?

We unfortunately don’t have a clear answer from the CDC on that right now.  It’s highly likely that the much-anticipated OSHA ETS won’t address booster doses, since only Pfizer boosters are currently recommended by the CDC, and only for certain groups.  Our guess is that it's unlikely that boosters will be required to be considered “fully vaccinated” in 2021 or 2022.  If annual boosters or vaccinations become standard at a later date, to keep COVID in check as an endemic disease, then it's far more likely that “fully vaccinated” will mean you got your annual COVID shot.

Recently, we’ve seen vaccination “cards” from some other countries like the UK and Canada. They’re so much better than ours. Why?

We’ve noticed the disparity, too, and it's complicated. The UK has a national health system with strong information systems that talk to each other, which the US doesn’t have.  It made this much simpler for them since all of the vaccine information is stored in connected systems.  The same is true for Canada which has a Vaccine Passport.  Both UK and Canadian vaccination records are not easily faked (the UK has a QR code for instant verification).

In the US,  states maintain their own immunization trackers and they don’t share information.  Someone who was vaccinated for COVID in nearby Connecticut can’t currently get NY’s version of a vaccine pass, for example. The need for a national immunization database was clear before (especially for those of you who dealt with Hepatitis A outbreaks in the past and couldn’t easily verify which of your employees were already immunized).  But it’s rapidly becoming a top priority for US public health.

Best Read

What If Getting a Kids’ Vaccine Approved Is the Easy Part?

Best Laugh

It’s Fat Bear Week! If you haven’t yet, we highly recommend taking a look and casting your vote for Katmai National Park’s fattest bear of 2021 at fatbearweek.org.

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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.