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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, October 19th

Mix & match vaccines, plus boosters for J&J?

COVID Recap:

  • The FDA has delayed its decision on the Moderna vaccine for teens, awaiting additional information about the potential for elevated risk for myocarditis. (WSJ)
  • And it’s expected to allow ‘mix and match’ vaccination for boosters. (Washington Post)
  • The CDC introduced holiday guidance which encourages vaccinations for everyone and masking at indoor gatherings. (CBS)
  • COVID cases have started to rise in the northeast, where temperatures have fallen and people are heading indoors. (NY Times)
  • Colin Powell, former secretary of state, died of COVID at age 84. He was fully vaccinated and at very high risk due to cancer. (CNN)
  • Italy began one of the world’s strictest COVID vaccination mandates this week. (Washington Post)
  • Washington State fired its football coach who refused to be vaccinated, as WA joined MA in their public employee vaccination mandate, with penalty of suspension or termination. (NY Times)
  • The NHL suspended San Jose Sharks player Evander Kane for 21 games after violation of the COVID protocol - he was being investigated after a tip that he submitted a fake vaccination card. (ESPN)
  • D-dimer tests, one of the primary tests used to determine if someone with COVID is developing dangerous blood clots in the lungs, may be less predictive as a diagnostic tool. (DG Alerts)
  • The success of Merck’s new COVID-fighting antiviral pill may depend on how quickly someone starts taking it. (Market Watch)
  • COVID testing availability and turnaround times are still uneven, even this far into the pandemic. (KHN)
  • People who have been infected with COVID in the past have stronger immunity after vaccination than those who just receive the vaccine - and scientists are still working out how that happens. (Nature)
  • Public health is facing a crisis in the US - and we might be even more unprepared for the next pandemic than we were for this one. A new report cites issues with long-term funding, staffing, authority and community support. (NY Times)

Today’s Health News:

  • NY is investigating a cluster of 10 cases of Legionnaires’ disease on Long Island and all of the patients live within a 1 mile radius. (Yahoo)
  • Kids are developing facial and verbal tics after watching TikTok videos by people using #tourettes. (WSJ)
  • There are 3 more Ebola cases in the DRC, bringing their total to 5 confirmed cases. (WHO)
  • Elbow bumps, becoming more common in sports than fist bumps or handshakes, might spread MRSA - the antibiotic resistant staph infection - just as easily. (CIDRAP)

Best Questions:

Should we advise employees who received a single dose of J&J vaccine to get a booster dose and if so, which vaccine?

The FDA has approved booster doses for ALL recipients of the previously single-dose J&J shot, with no restrictions based on age, risk level, or anything else. Some experts are implying that this universal booster approval is due to the lower level of protection provided by J&J compared to the pretty impressive mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer. Plus, the new ‘mix and match’ study that recently came out showed that J&J recipients who got a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76x in 15 days, compared with only 4x after an extra dose of J&J. So, getting a booster of an mRNA vaccine after a single J&J may offer more protection. It’s still too early to say exactly what the CDC will recommend, but their advisory panel meets Thursday, so we expect clearer recommendations by the end of the week. For now, we suggest that employees who got a single dose of J&J talk with their doctors and follow the latest CDC recommendations when those are released in the next few days. 

We know you can get a flu shot and COVID vaccine at the same time, but employees keep telling us they can’t get the COVID shot since they just got their flu shot. Are they just getting bad info?

Yes, if an employee says they can’t get their COVID vaccine due to a recent flu shot, they’re likely misinformed. Every major retail pharmacy like CVS and Walgreens are actually prompting people who schedule flu shots to schedule their COVID vaccine or booster (if eligible) at the very same time. Employees who think they can’t should call their doctor, their local pharmacy, or wherever they got their flu shot to get the facts and schedule their COVID vaccination!

A fully vaccinated employee’s schools excluded them for 2 weeks for close contact. Are schools following different guidance? Can the employee work?

This is something we’re seeing over and over, where schools are reacting to COVID+ students or staff by going beyond the CDC guidelines and requiring that all close contacts quarantine, including those who are fully vaccinated. It’s based on very real concerns that those with breakthrough infections may still be able to spread the virus, though new data is showing they’re spreading it at a lower rate than unvaccinated infected people. Generally, we recommend that our clients defer to schools who have quarantine requirements, as long as they are as strict or more strict than the CDC guidelines. Nobody wants to find out that their server or cashier is working in the middle of the school day because they’re not allowed to be at school due to close contact - even if they technically could based on CDC guidelines. 

Best Read:

The Complex Business of Vaccine Mandates

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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.