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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, August 24th

What does FDA approval mean for employer vaccine mandates?


  • The FDA fully approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine on Monday. It’s still under EUA for children aged 12-17. (FDA)
  • Community leaders - from principals to pastors to attorneys general -  are coaching people in how to get around mask and vaccine requirements. (AP)
  • Scientists are studying “discordant” COVID couples - where one gets sick and the other doesn’t, even though they’re living in the same space. They hope to learn more about what makes some people more immune than others. (STAT)
  • More children than ever are being hospitalized for COVID, even as the school year begins. Doctors fear it will get worse. (Wall Street Journal)
  • COVID may be most infectious 2-3 days after onset of symptoms. And the severity of illness may be closely linked to severity of illness in the person you got it from.  (CIDRAP)
  • Confusion surrounding proof of vaccination is only getting worse. There are many electronic solutions, but one of the easiest is taking a cell phone pic of your card and saving it in a separate folder. (CNET)
  • While the Delta variant may be more infectious, a new report shows the breakthrough cases may be almost 20% less transmissible.  (CIDRAP)
  • Although you might think this is a joke, many anti-vaxxers are stocking up on a horse dewormer in case they get COVID, and poison control calls are skyrocketing as a result. Please don’t take Ivermectin - to quote the FDA, “You are not a horse.” (MSNBC)
  • One cruise ship passenger died and 27 were infected on a Carnival ship where extensive COVID precautions and mandatory vaccinations were in place. This led to Friday’s CDC  recommendation that those at high risk not board cruise ships right now. (CNBC)
  • A server went to work sick in a brewery in OH, claiming it was because they were short staffed, and the resulting Tweet storm became international news. (Twitter)

Today’s Health News

  • A new survey shows people are more interested in getting mental health care now than ever before - but they can’t actually access the help they need. (NPR)
  • A New Orleans resident has a serious case of West Nile virus, spread by mosquitoes. Other human cases have been seen in Colorado, and the virus has been found in mosquitoes in dozens of other states. (AP)
  • The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has torn through communities for the past decade. Simple solutions like advocates in the ER, medication, and Uber vouchers can help. (NPR)

Best Questions

Now that the FDA has approved Pfizer’s vaccine, should we reconsider vaccine mandates for our employees?

Many schools and businesses are revisiting vaccine mandates now that Pfizer’s vaccine is fully approved by the FDA. There’s already been a wave of mandates across the military, schools, and cities nationwide, but we expect that there will be an even bigger push for mandated vaccination now, taking some of the heat off of individual businesses that decide to require vaccination. There are still a lot of questions about the legal implications of mandates, but more and more we’re seeing them upheld even in states with strong pushback from governors or legislatures.

Our employees are traveling for an event with testing before and on arrival. If we have a positive result on arrival, what are best practices and how are other employers handling that?

The employee must be quarantined.  Some clients are renting cars and allowing the COVID+ employee to drive themselves home (if well enough).  They’re also reserving a hotel room or two for the employee to quarantine for 10 days if they’re unable to travel home.  For close contacts, if they’re vaccinated they can continue to work.  If they’re unvaccinated and exposed, you may consider allowing them as a group to travel back home together on the bus. Masking on a bus is required regardless of the situation. Under no circumstances should COVID+ or symptomatic people travel on public transportation, since they are likely to infect many others in transit.

Exposed employees report being vaccinated but can’t find their cards or show proof.  Should we exclude them for close contact?

Unfortunately, yes. It’s relatively easy to get proof of vaccination if you were truly vaccinated. Many states have digital records that are easily accessible, and any pharmacy or clinic will give out a new CDC vaccination card if you’ve lost yours. When an employee says they can’t remember where they got vaccinated or when or what brand it was, it’s a big risk to let them back to work after exposure, given how easily they could obtain proof. We recommend keeping them out of work until they can prove that they were vaccinated, and coaching them to call the place they went to get the shot who can help them get a new card or access a digital record.

Flu season is coming. Should we get the flu shot early?

While you don’t need to get the flu shot in August, you should definitely get one this fall. You don’t want to get vaccinated in July or August because the flu shot’s protection wanes over the year. September and October are the best time to get the shot. Don’t delay too long, because (like the COVID vaccine) the flu shot takes a few weeks to ramp up to full effect. We recommend getting your shot before the end of October.

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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.