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Zero Hour Health + Zedic Newsletter - Friday, April 16th

A J&J vaccine update, offering on-site COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots.

ZHH Updates

Should you develop a COVID-19 testing plan?

As businesses consider returning to full capacity and holding in-person events, testing strategies may be a key component in reopening safely. Here are some things to consider as you develop your own company’s testing strategy.

J&J Vaccine Update

  • The CDC vaccine advisory committee opted not to vote on resuming the use of the J&J vaccine until they get more details. The pause won’t lift until at least April 23rd when they meet again. (STAT)
  • The pause is partially to make sure doctors know about the rare clots, because the normal treatment could be dangerous in these cases. (ScienceNews)
  • Putting the J&J clotting risk in perspective, an Oxford study showed that the risk for that rare type of blood clot is much higher for those who get COVID than the risk after getting the J&J or AstraZeneca vaccines. (Oxford)
  • And this is all affecting underserved populations more than anyone. You’ll remember that the J&J vaccine was supposed to help vaccinate these communities both because it doesn’t need to be kept frozen and it’s only one shot. (Washington Post)

  • Experts fear that the pause on the J&J vaccine will increase vaccine hesitancy. We've rounded up some of the most common questions we're getting from you about the pause and have included some tips to help you discuss the news with your employees. Click here to read our blog post on everything you need to know about the J&J pause.

Workplace Vaccination

  • All U.S. adults will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines by Monday. One of the most efficient and convenient ways to ensure your workforce has easy access to vaccines is to host an on-site vaccination clinic at your workplace. CDC recently issued new guidance to help you determine if on-site vaccination is an option for your business. (CDC)

  • A new survey suggests that more than 80% of America’s largest employers plan to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination before the end of the year. (National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions)

  • We can help you arrange on-site workplace vaccination clinics. Call us to learn more.

Today's Recap

  • Waiting those two weeks after you’re fully vaccinated is crucial. It takes that long for our immune systems to recognize the spike protein and create enough antibodies to stop an infection or avoid severe disease. (Mashable)
  • A new CDC study found that leaving the middle seat open on airplanes could reduce passengers’ risk of COVID by 23-57% when compared to a full flight. The lab simulation didn’t measure the impact of wearing face masks, which are still required on most flights. As expected, the airline industry is pushing back. (CNN, Business Insider)
  • Pfizer’s CEO says a third booster dose will likely be needed within a year. Moderna's vaccine booster, which targets the South African variant, gives “us confidence that we can proactively address emerging variants", the company said. (CNBC, Moderna)

    This has been expected since the beginning. There’s a real chance we’ll be getting annual COVID shots like we do flu shots.
  • Exercise may strongly protect against poor COVID-19 outcomes, according to a new study by Kaiser Permanente. Inactive patients were 2.26x more likely to be hospitalized and 1.7x more likely to be admitted to an ICU. (CIDRAP)
  • Long COVID sufferers are seeking disability benefits. (U.S. News and World Report)
  • When asked about when we’ll be able to put all of this behind us, Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to the House Select Subcommittee on the coronavirus, “when daily case counts drop below 10,000”. (HHS)
  • A new report shows 5,800 confirmed breakthrough cases out of about 77 million fully vaccinated people in the US. (CNN)

Best Questions

If someone has COVID-like symptoms but has already tested COVID+ in the past, do they really need a 10-day exclusion? 

First, let’s be clear: people with symptoms should not work while they’re sick. If someone has had COVID in the past 90 days, they might not need a full 10-day exclusion, because reinfection during that 90-day window is very rare and we know that some COVID symptoms can develop a bit later. For those cases, if someone develops concerning symptoms, like a cough or fever, we generally recommend a three-day exclusion to start, with 24 hours symptom-free before they can return to work. For those who had COVID more than 90 days ago, though, reinfection is more common, so we recommend a 10-day exclusion in that case. 

If someone is fully vaccinated and has COVID symptoms, do they really need a 10-day exclusion? 

Unfortunately, yes. Breakthrough cases, as they’re called, aren’t common, but they do happen with some regularity. We’ve seen a few cases among our clients recently, and it likely has to do with some of these newer variants, which aren’t as easily stopped by the vaccines. So, if someone has COVID symptoms or tests positive for COVID, they should still stay home for 10 days whether or not they’re fully vaccinated. 

In light of the J&J news, do vaccines affect women differently? If I’m a woman, should I be worried? 

Yes, vaccines (and in fact, lots of health-related things) affect women differently than men. The most obvious case of this is that the mild (normal) side effects of vaccines are often a bit worse in women, like pain in the arm near the injection site, or mild flu-like symptoms in the day or two after the shot.

The new J&J pause is due to blood clotting with low platelets, which in the US has happened to six women ages 18-48. Since it’s happened so rarely, it’s too early to say if it mostly affects women or certain age groups, but we can look to Europe where they’re navigating a similar situation with the AstraZeneca vaccine. We do see that, while these rare blood clots do affect men, they affect women more often. Both Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, which show absolutely no patterns of severe side effects, and no major concerns for women. With these vaccines, there are zero cases of the blood clots like the J&J and AstraZeneca ones, with millions more people who have been vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna. 

For a full breakdown of what to keep in mind for women and vaccines, see our newest blog post here. 

We’re having staffing issues. What can we do to reduce exclusions?

You’re not alone. This is the number one issue our clients are facing across many industries right now, and we know that managers are feeling the pinch of low staffing. Having a few employees excluded for 10 days can be a huge problem. Even worse, though, is when there are 5, 10, even 20 people out sick at the same time, this can lead to closures, health department visits and bad press. The best way to reduce work exclusions is to be aggressive about handwashing, social distancing, masking, and staying home from work when sick. That one stomach bug your server had? Better to keep him out for three days than have seven more people down for the count and sick guests. Counterintuitively, encouraging sick people to stay home at the first sign of illness actually breaks the cycle of illness and keeps more people working.  

When will we get back to “normal” shorter work exclusions?

The tough answer is that it’s not yet, and it’s not necessarily going to be soon. As much as we wish we could, there won’t be one day when we hit a magic button and all exclusions can go back to pre-pandemic lengths. Instead, we’ll likely have to make month-by-month adjustments, based on case counts, vaccination rates, variants, and new science. It’s already happening, slowly. Where a year ago we would’ve excluded anyone for a new cough, now we’re asking detailed questions about allergies before making a determination. Where a few months ago we would’ve put someone out for another 10 days if their COVID symptoms returned, now we’ll stick to just three if they’re within 90 days of their positive diagnosis. All of these changes are made based on the best new science, and our changing understanding of the virus and the risk of transmitting it. We expect some more highs and lows of cases through the winter, and hope that by this time next year we’ll see some significantly shorter work exclusions.

Best Read

The Fifth Quarter of the Pandemic

Best Laugh

Are you a Pfizer or Moderna? Inside the Absurd Vaccine Coolness War.

People online are measuring supposed vaccine status. Pfizer leads, Moderna is second. And if you had the Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca jabs, sorry, you’re not even in the race.

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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.