The development, testing, and rollout of vaccines for COVID-19 have progressed at such a dizzying pace that frontline workers can be forgiven for losing track. Hospital employee health departments, however, don’t have that luxury. Hospital workers are among the highest-priority groups in line for immunization and it’s crucial that vaccine delivery is executed quickly, fairly, and safely.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first vaccine against COVID-19 for emergency use on December 11, 2020.1 The vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech was found to be 95 percent effective in its early randomized placebo-controlled study. It’s given in two doses, three weeks apart. The FDA followed up with a second emergency-use authorization a week later for a vaccine developed by Moderna, which was found to be 94.1 percent effective. This vaccine is also given in two doses, but unlike Pfizer’s, Moderna’s second shot is given one month after the first.2
Both vaccines were created using messenger RNA that teaches the body to produce COVID-19’s “spike” proteins in order to trigger an immune response without giving patients the virus. Both were found to cause side effects after the second dose more often than the first.1, 2
How quickly are the vaccines being deployed?
At close of business on New Year’s Eve, 3.17 million doses were administered in the U.S., according to an analysis of data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s about a quarter of the 12.5 million doses that were shipped.3 Hospital and long-term care facility workers have been the first to get immunized. Next in line will be vulnerable populations and essential workers.
Prioritizing immunizations among hospital staff
Most hospital and health system employee health departments need to determine who will get their shots first. The ethical and practical questions are not easy. Although the CDC has offered guidance,4 the federal government has left the prioritization to state and medical officials. Many are considering first those who spend more of the workday in environments that are at high risk for transmission of the virus, like emergency departments, intensive care units, and of course COVID-19 wards. Other groups that officials are prioritizing are workers with health risks like chronic illness or advanced age. Logistical criteria such as ultra-low temperature refrigeration capacity and Coronavirus caseload have also entered into decisions.5
Don’t let your guard down
Even after the second dose, it’s important to continue taking reasonable precautions to reduce the spread of the pandemic. Neither shot was shown to be 100 percent effective, and the body needs time to build the antibodies necessary to stave off infection. Most importantly, we may continue to carry and transmit the disease even if we aren’t infected.6 So let’s keep up the good work of social distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks.
To help make immunization tracking faster, safer, more accurate, and more compliant, Net Health has developed the new Mobile Immunization Tracking platform as part of the Net Health® Employee Health (Agility®) comprehensive software solution for compliance tracking and employee wellness oversight. The new platform eliminates cumbersome paper records by scanning employee badges. It’s optimized for tablets and integrates seamlessly with your compliance platform for a smooth, intuitive workflow, all in one secure system.
4 Things OccMed & Employee Health Departments Need to Know about COVID-19
Understanding current COVID regulations and what the future might hold.
1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, “FDA Takes Key Action in Fight Against COVID-19 By Issuing Emergency Use Authorization for First COVID-19 Vaccine,” December 11, 2020.
2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, “FDA Takes Additional Action in Fight Against COVID-19 By Issuing Emergency Use Authorization for Second COVID-19 Vaccine,” December 18, 2020.
3. Bloomberg, “COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, accessed December 31, 2020.
4. Dooling, K., et al., “The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ Interim Recommendation for Allocating Initial Supplies of COVID-19 Vaccine – United States, 2020,” December 3, 2020.
5. Boyle, P., “COVID-19 vaccines: Here’s what health care workers need to know,” December 18, 2020.
6. Mandavilli, A., “Here’s Why Vaccinated People Still Need to Wear a Mask,” December 8, 2020.