Employers, What You Should Know About Covid-19 Vaccines

Introduction:

The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc in the United States for over a year and a half at this point. Now that vaccines are finally here. There is a lot of information on the internet regarding the vaccines, some of which may be misleading. It’s important for employers to learn the facts about the COVID-19 vaccines so they can better protect their employees and customers.

This First Volunteer Insurance blog provides an overview of the COVID-19 vaccines and answers some common questions relevant to employers here in Southeast Tennessee.

The information comes primarily from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and may be updated over time.

How Many Vaccines Are There?

There are three vaccines that have been given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the time of this writing: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccines differ in some ways (namely, how they must be shipped and stored), but they are fundamentally the same.

Are the Vaccines Worth Getting?

The vaccines have gone through rigorous vetting procedures and clinical trials, attesting to their safety and effectiveness. The vaccines not only protect the individual, but also anyone they might come into contact with. This can dramatically help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Are There Side Effects?

Like most other vaccines, these ones may come with mild side effects. These include:
• Pain, redness or swelling near where the shot was administered
• Fatigue
• Joint pain
• Chills
• Headache
• Fever

Employees experiencing these or other symptoms for more than three days should contact their primary care physician.

How Will They Be Administered?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccines must be administered in two doses— one initial shot and another three to four weeks later. Getting both shots will provide the most protection, though a single dose should still offer some protective benefits, according to experts. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs one shot.

Who Should Receive the Vaccines?

Individuals age 16 and up can receive a vaccine (depending on which one). However, there are some caveats to this, particularly if the individual has certain health conditions. While experts are encouraging as many people as possible to get vaccinated, anyone considering getting the vaccines should first consult their doctor.

Who Should Not Receive the Vaccines?

A vaccine has now been produced for children under the age of 16 so that is no longer included in the list of exclusions, but other people that should not receive the vaccines include:

• Anyone with severe allergies to any ingredients contained within the vaccines
• Anyone who experienced an allergic reaction—severe or not—after receiving their first dose of the vaccines
• Anyone with underlying medical conditions that may not respond well to the vaccines
• Anyone who experienced an allergic reaction—severe or not—after receiving their first dose of the vaccines

• Anyone with underlying medical conditions that may not respond well to the vaccines

Employees should talk to their doctors to learn whether the vaccines are safe for them to receive.

Can the Vaccines Be Mandatory for Employees?

In short, right now it depends on the state. Yes in Maine, no in Tennessee for instance—employers may generally make receiving a vaccine a mandatory condition of employment. But that may not always be the best option for every organization. As such, employers should seek legal counsel to discuss which course of action is best for their specific circumstances.
In the meantime, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published an exhaustive list of frequently asked questions to help employers navigate this sensitive area.

Can COVID-19 Precautions End if All Employees Are Vaccinated?

The vaccines are only one of several tools in the arsenal used to fight COVID-19. So even after receiving both doses of the vaccines, other workplace safeguards should remain in effect, including:

• Washing hands frequently
• Wearing masks
• Social distancing
• Self-quarantining if sick

There is still much unknown about the vaccines. Maintaining these precautions will help ensure a higher level of safety for employees, their families and the community at large.

First Volunteer Insurance recommends that you visit the CDC website for more answers to COVID-19related questions. Reach out to us at 423-668-4888 for additional workplace guidance on this and other topics relevant to your business or organization.