January 08, 2021
In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss how businesses can determine the COVID-19 vaccination priorities and directives of the states in which they operate. Read more.
We also are continuing to populate the TAG Vaccine Q&A page. Today’s questions focus on (a) the efficacy of current tests and (b) managing potentially serious reactions of vaccines.
Recommendations for Industry
What Are the Vaccination Priorities of Your State? & More Vaccine Q&As
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, states have had the ultimate say in most COVID-19-related rulemaking and recommendations (e.g. including stay-at-home orders, mask-wearing, business limitations, and essential worker distinctions). Directives for the roll-out of virus vaccines are no different.
As explained by the National Governors Association (NGA), it is each state’s individual responsibility to “manag[e] the systems for ordering, distributing, and monitoring vaccines” – i.e., determining where your workers fall in the system’s priority of distribution. So, with each state setting its own direction, how do you find out what your state is doing and how to get your workers get on the list?
To assist our clients and readers, TAG scoured the web for resources, ready to develop our own, if needed. Through our research, we have discovered that the NGA itself has the most comprehensive and regularly updated resources, as its State COVID-19 Vaccine Resources webpage links to the vaccine public health webpage of every state and U.S. territory. While declared as being “not exhaustive of statewide actions,” it is as up to date on vaccine information as has been published by each state and territory.
In addition, TAG is continuing to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about vaccines on our COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ webpage and is in the process of developing a COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit for employers and employees. Give us a call with your questions or needs!
Q. What effect will the new variant have on detection through COVID-19 tests and vaccine efficacy?
A. The US CDC states that it is continuing to study the variants; they are seeking to understand whether the variants: “are detected by currently available viral tests; respond to medicines currently being used to treat people for COVID-19; [and/or] change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.” However, the CDC does state that “there is no evidence that [change in effectiveness] is occurring, and most experts believe [it] is unlikely to occur because of the nature of the immune response to the virus.”
UK experts have seen that current COVID-19 tests and vaccines seem to be working against the new variant:
As cited by BMJ Healthcare, the head of the department of infectious disease at Imperial College London, Wendy Barclay, explained that PCR testing relied on three different assays, one of which detects the S or spike part of the virus, where the variant mutations occur. “One of the ways that this [new virus variant] has been picked up is that the S part of the (PCR) test does not seem to work as well on this variant. This is not a problem in terms of case numbers, because we have two other back-up parts that still detect the virus,” she said. However, less is known about the mutations’ effect on lateral flow antigen tests.
Experts speaking at a Science Media Centre briefing on Covid-19 say that the new variant was unlikely to make vaccines ineffective.
With all this, the current strategy of getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible is still highly recommended. TAG recommends that you keep an eye on your state’s rollout and encourage employees to get vaccinated when they can.
Q. I’ve heard that the vaccines can have serious side effects. Should I be worried?
A. While there have been cases of anaphylaxis following vaccinations, this is very rare. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which monitored the first Pfizer vaccine doses given between December 14 – 23, 2020, detected 21 cases of a reported 1,893,360 (11.1 cases per million doses) Pfizer vaccinations. The occurrence is incredibly rare. In most cases (86%), anaphylaxis occurs within 30 minutes of vaccination; most persons (81%) had a previous history of allergies or allergic reaction to vaccines.
Tracking of the Moderna vaccines (which only began on December 21, 2020), found only one occurrence in an estimated 224,000 first doses given between December 21 – 23rd.
Although serious side effects are rare, it can occur. TAG stresses that vaccinations be given in a clinical setting where appropriate medical treatment is available (e.g. epinephrine). At this time, we do not recommend that businesses set up onsite vaccinations.
Although vaccines generally reduce transmission of illness, unfortunately, we are still unsure yet if the COVID-19 vaccine will prevent COVID-19 transmission from those who have been vaccinated. Despite that, vaccination is still important as yet another protective factor (and another tool in the toolkit) to protect yourself from serious illness. Ultimately, it is imperative to continue COVID-19 preventive measures, including wearing masks, frequent hand-washing, practicing social distancing, and continuing enhanced cleaning/disinfection protocols.
In Case You Missed It...
In Wednesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss TAG’s COVID-19 Risk Matrix Update: January 05, 2021. Read more.
A recent study published in JAMA and reported by CIDRAP finds that 14.3% of the US population had antibodies against COVID-19 by November 2020; implying that more people than reported have been infected. This tracks with the discussion that there may be a lot of COVID-19 underreporting. Additionally, there is evidence that about 35% of COVID-19 related deaths have not been reported.
In its weekly situational report, the WHO has found that the UK COVID-19 Variant (also known as the B.1.1.7 variant) has been found in 40 other WHO-involved countries. The South African COVID-19 Variant (501Y.V2) has been detected in six other countries.
More European countries are announcing tighter restrictions and lockdowns.
There is increasing evidence that patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms (post-hospitalization, etc.) have also developed symptoms like those associated with brain injury and other neurological disorders. NPR has summarized the studies.
The FDA has published a new toolkit to communicate hand sanitizer safety & use during COVID-19 in both English and Spanish.
The FDA also has a new COVID-19 Communication Toolkits webpage which provides links to all FDA toolkits on COVID-19 topics to help everyone communicate accurate and timely information to patients, the public, and health care professionals.
Keep up to date with COVID-19:
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