03 September 2021

How will the “booster” and full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine affect return-to-work efforts?

How will the “booster” and full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine affect return-to-work efforts?

You may have heard that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are reviewing new guidance to administer COVID- 19 booster shots in a strategic effort to combat diminishing immunity and the ongoing surge of the Delta variant. COVID- 19 is similar to many other vaccines in that a booster shot may be needed to build and sustain a strong immunity. For some diseases, protection wears off over time. Some viruses change or mutate, rendering the vaccines less effective.

Here are examples of other vaccines we are all familiar with, that require booster shots:

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap)
  • Shingles
  • Pneumonia
  • Varicella
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • Influenza

Most people who received a vaccine against COVID- 19 developed some level of protection against serious illness from the coronavirus. However, initial evidence on mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna suggest they start to lose some of their power against infection and serious illness, regardless of the variant of the virus.

On August 24, the FDA approved the first COVID- 19 vaccine beyond its emergency use authorization (EUA). The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee). It is approved for individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under EUA, including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

Employer actions on vaccines

Some specific approaches employers may consider while addressing employee concerns about the COVID-19 booster shot:

  • Consider how existing incentive programs may be impacted in light of the approved vaccine and the planned booster vaccine campaign.
  • Revise internal communication to proactively respond to concerns about the approval and booster. The new FDA approval should help to ease vaccine hesitancy among unvaccinated populations.
  • Develop vaccination strategies that consider other employer-sponsored initiatives such as annual flu vaccine administration, biometric health screenings, health fairs, and open enrollment.
  • Allow employees time off and flexibility to receive vaccinations and recover from potential side effects.
  • Consider the role of on-site clinics in supporting the ongoing flu vaccination and COID-19 booster administration for your eligible employees.

As acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. stated: “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

Jeanne Griffin, RN, BS, MPH, Principal, National Health Intelligence Practice Lead

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