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Urging Employers to Support COVID-19 Vaccination for Employees

  • Published
  • 9 February 2021
  • Category
  • General
By Christopher Jankosky, M.D., M.P.H.

At WorkCare, our team of occupational physicians highly recommends that employers facilitate COVID-19 vaccination for employees, either in their community or workplace, as soon as the opportunity arises.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are FDA-authorized for emergency use are safe and effective. The vaccine has been tested in clinical trials with tens of thousands of volunteers. As of Feb. 7, more than 41 million doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine have been safely administered in the U.S., and that number is rapidly increasing daily. Clinical data shows these vaccines to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing infection.

If you are still not convinced, remember that few things are 100 percent effective. Consider local firefighters, who wear a lot of protective gear when they are battling a blaze. The protection is good, but it does not make them invincible. Even though injuries can still occur, imagine how much more harm would be done to their health without this protection?

The flu shot is similar. It safely provides protection against influenza viruses that are expected to predominate during flu season. Sure, the level of protection varies from year to year and it doesn’t totally eliminate the flu. However, annual vaccination helps prevent the spread of a potentially fatal contagious illness. It reduces work absence rates and makes symptoms milder for those who get sick.

Bottom line: Giving employees 90 percent protection from a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than no protection at all.

COVID-19 Variants and Vaccine

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is mutating – as viruses naturally do. Variants are not a reason for your employees to postpone getting vaccinated.

Waiting for the next generation of vaccines is not recommended. While 90 percent effectiveness for the standard COVID-19 strain may decrease to 70 to 80 percent effectiveness with a variant strain, that is still a considerable level of protection. In addition, even among the estimated 10 percent of people who will develop a COVID-19 infection following vaccination, similar to flu vaccination, their symptoms are expected to be less severe and less persistent.

Another bonus: Workplace vaccination campaigns help limit the spread of virus in communities where businesses operate – literally slowing down or halting the development of new viral mutations as COVID-19 spreads. If you are concerned about the spread of variant strains, do something about it – encourage your employees to get vaccinated.

Side Effects

There are some side-effects associated with vaccination. They are usually mild. Vaccines activate the body’s immune system and may cause temporary symptoms such as fever, achiness or fatigue. While these symptoms are among those experienced by some people with SARS-CoV-2 infection, vaccination cannot cause COVID-19. We expect only about 10 percent of employees may have to stay home for one to three days until post-vaccination symptoms are gone.

Employers who are providing shots onsite can minimize potential work disruptions due to vaccine-related symptoms by staggering vaccinations over a period of  days or within a few weeks.

Other Precautions

One of the questions we are getting from employers is, “Once our employees are vaccinated, can they stop wearing masks and practicing social distancing in our workplace?” For the time being, it is still necessary to wear masks and maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance, as feasible. These protective measures will likely remain in place until enough of the population is either believed to be immune after having COVID or protected by vaccination.

If you are getting impatient, remember that a global vaccination program totally eradicated the smallpox virus. It took time, but human ingenuity prevailed in the fight against smallpox. I am optimistic about our chances of overcoming COVID-19.

So, move forward with confidence and encourage your employees to get vaccinated. With a positive attitude, we can all  look forward to a successful national vaccination program that restores normalcy in our communities and workplaces this year.

Dr. Christopher Jankosky is Senior Vice President, Medical Operations, at WorkCare.

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