As the pandemic continues to evolve, Eden Health is here to keep HR teams and employers updated on the latest news and science. This week, we’re addressing boosters, what to do if someone in your workplace is exposed to COVID-19, vaccines for children, and the latest on travel to the United States.
1. What to do if someone is exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
COVID-19 is very contagious and despite vaccination efforts and workplace protocols that are meant to keep everyone safe, you may still have an employee test positive for COVID-19 who has been in contact with other employees or contractors.
Once you are aware of a positive COVID-19 case, you should immediately begin contact tracing which includes notifying your employees and the employer of any contract workers who may have worked closely with the infected employee. In general, “working closely” means within 6 feet for a total of more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period, from two days prior to when the employee developed symptoms or two days before their positive test, whichever came first.
- Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated close workplace contacts should be asked to stay home to quarantine and self-monitor for symptoms for 10 or 14 days depending on local or state guidelines. Depending on the state in which you live or work, unvaccinated individuals with exposure and no symptoms can be tested for COVID-19 with a PCR test on or after the 7th day post-exposure and end quarantine after the 5th day if they test negative.
- Fully vaccinated individuals with close workplace contacts are not required to quarantine, but will need to wear a high quality, well-fitted mask when outside their home for 14 days after exposure. They can take a PCR test 3 to 5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, or until their test result is negative. If they are symptomatic during that time they should default to isolation immediately.
2. There has been a lot of news about booster shots. What is the latest?
Following review by the FDA and the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the Pfizer-BioNtech booster is now recommended for the following groups. 6 months after completing the initial vaccine series:
- People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings
- People aged 50 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions
- People aged 18 to 49 years with underlying medical conditions based on individual risk
- People aged 18 to 64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting
- This group comprises frontline healthcare workers, teachers and first responders.
Pfizer boosters are optional, and now available for these groups where initial vaccine doses are available, including local and state vaccination sites and retail pharmacies. No prescription or provider referrals are required to obtain this booster dose. Approval for remaining population groups is pending more efficacy and safety data.
Given the available data, we strongly recommend those over the age of 65 and those aged 55 and older with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 consider receiving the booster.
For those for whom the booster doses are not yet recommended, we encourage reaching out to a healthcare provider to discuss the risks and benefits of receiving the booster at this time.
3. What about boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines?
Earlier this month, Moderna submitted an emergency use authorization application for their booster, which is a different dose from its original vaccine, to be administered 8 months after completion of the initial vaccine series. The FDA has not yet scheduled a meeting to discuss boosters for Moderna.
Johnson & Johnson has released data from a Phase 3 clinical trial for its booster, which showed promising results, but the company has not applied for emergency use authorization yet.
4. What about vaccines for children 5 to 11?
According to Pfizer-BioNTech, their data shows that their COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11. Pfizer-BioNTech will likely submit an application to the FDA Advisory council by the end of September to obtain emergency use authorization (EUA) for children. It will then likely take several weeks to review the data and before a final decision is made.
5. What’s new on travel to the United States?
Starting in November 2021, the U.S. is set to ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals from 33 countries. The easing of travel restrictions applies to visitors from the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, as well as Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and India.
Foreign travelers flying to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated before boarding a flight and have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. They will not be required to quarantine upon arrival. Children not yet eligible to be vaccinated are excluded from the new rules and they also do not apply to travelers crossing land borders in Mexico and Canada.
Unvaccinated Americans returning to the United States will be required to test negative for COVID-19 within one day of leaving and again one day after arriving.
Eden Health is here to keep you up-to-date and answer your questions about the evolving pandemic. To learn more about our COVID-19 solutions, contact us today.
Authored by Heather Towery, M.D., VP Clinical Strategy and Enterprise Partnerships at Eden Health
Disclaimer: This information is based on current resources available and is subject to change. This document and its contents are provided for informational purposes only, and not intended to be, and should not be understood or treated as, a substitute for professional medical advice around COVID-19, its risks or symptoms, or to take the place of any local, state and national laws and guidelines around COVID-19. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.