COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs: Information for Employers

We know that employers have questions or are fielding questions from employees on the COVID-19 vaccine. With the help of our friends at HR360 and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we’ve put together some information for employers on the COVID-19 vaccine.

What types of COVID-19 vaccines are available?

There are three vaccines that have been given emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the time of this publication – the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines differ in some ways (namely, how they must be shipped and stored), but they are fundamentally the same. While short of full approval, the EUA allows both vaccines to be distributed in the U.S. for individuals age 18 and older for the Moderna vaccine, and individuals age 16 and older for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As of April 13, 2021, the CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. The vaccine will be discussed in an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on April 23, 2021.

Are the vaccines worth getting?

Yes. 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 both at home, at work and in your community.

Are there side effects?

Like most other vaccines, these may come with mild side effects. These include pain, redness or swelling near where the shot was administered, fatigue, joint pain, chills, headache and fever. Employees experiencing these or other symptoms for more than three days should contact their primary care physician.

Who should (and should not) receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

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.

Beyond young children, 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

Employers should encourage employees to talk to their doctors to learn whether the vaccines are safe for them to receive.

When will the COVID-19 vaccine become available?

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and availability has broadened. A release from the CDC on Saturday, April 17 said that approximately half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine with nearly one-third fully vaccinated. Here is more information for the following states:

Overall, we recommend that individuals monitor their state’s local news to learn more about when and how the vaccines may be made available to them.

Will employees need to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

In most cases, the COVID-19 vaccines must be made available to employees without cost sharing.

Non-grandfathered group health plans, and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance coverage, must cover coronavirus preventive services, including recommended COVID–19 immunizations, without cost sharing. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, covered services may be provided by in-network or out-of-network providers. Back in March 2020, we wrote guidance provided by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) regarding COVID-19, including immunizations.

Do employees need the vaccine if they recovered from COVID-19 already?

Yes. If someone previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19, they should still receive the vaccines if they can, according to the CDC.

Can COVID-19 precautions end if all employees are vaccinated?

No. Vaccines are only one of several tools used to fight COVID-19. This means that even after receiving both doses of the vaccines, other workplace safeguards should remain in effect, including washing hands frequently, wearing masks, social distancing and self-quarantining if sick. At this time, there are still a lot of unknowns about the vaccines. By maintaining these precautions, your workplace will help ensure a higher level of safety for your employees, their families and your overall community.

What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Being fully vaccinated still means you should keep taking precautions (wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and avoiding crowds in poorly ventilated spaces). Visit this page from the CDC for more information.  

If you’d like more information on the COVID-19 vaccine including how they are administered, the safety of the vaccine, side effects and more, check out these frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the CDC.

Employers, if you need more information or if you still have questions, please contact the Employee Benefits Management Group (EBMG) at Rose & Kiernan, Inc. here or by calling (800) 242-4433.

Also, note that news and events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine are changing quickly. The information provided in this blog post represents where things stand on the date of publication.

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