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Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and the rapidly approaching respiratory infectious disease season are compelling some employers to contemplate the possibility of re-introducing symptom screening, covid boosters and testing for infection to protect employee health.
WorkCare’s occupational health team helps employers evaluate the need for onsite and virtually monitored COVID-19 screening, testing and other potential protection measures in the context of industry type, work environment, workforce composition and company culture. However, fundamental airborne infectious disease prevention recommendations apply to everyone at risk of exposure to coronavirus disease, influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which have the potential to create a “tripledemic” if precautions are not taken.
Vaccination helps the body build immunity to viruses, reducing the chance of getting sick or developing symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization, public health officials say. With regard to long COVID, vaccination may reduce the likelihood of developing persistent symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, chronic cough, neurological deficits and digestive problems.
In addition to the COVID booster, flu shots and vaccination against RSV, especially for older adults and children, is recommended before the winter respiratory infection season kicks into high gear. (Refer to WorkCare’s fact sheet on flu prevention in the workplace.)
This week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer and ModernaTx COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for everyone over six months old. (The same age recommendation applies to flu shots, with some exceptions for specific conditions). Recipients who have already received one or more doses of COVID vaccine will get a “boost” of protection to compensate for waning immunity over time.
The booster is particularly recommended for people with weakened immune systems, who have medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, chronic lung disease or obesity, who are pregnant and those who are over age 65. The COVID booster is directed at XBB.1.5, an omicron subvariant that represented about 12 percent of cases in early August. Since then, other variants, including BA.2.86, have emerged, but the booster shot is expected to be effective against them, as well.
Research conducted in Israel that was published Sept. 8 in JAMA Network Open suggests COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be safely administered together without a significant decline in antibody response. The researchers, who analyzed the co-administration of last year’s flu vaccine and bivalent COVID-19 booster among health care workers, said giving the shots together could help increase adherence, especially in more vulnerable populations. Some experts recommend getting the RSV vaccine separately.
It’s considered safe for people who had their last COVID vaccination more than two months ago to get boosted. People who recently had COVID can wait at least three months before getting the booster shot because their body developed immunity while they were infected. Employees who are unsure about their vaccination eligibility should be advised to consult their medical provider or a pharmacist.
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