Vaccines and testing information
The arrival of vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021 were pioneering moments in the fight against COVID-19. This section provides guidance for setting up onsite vaccinations or group appointments, answering common vaccine questions, creating vaccination policies, and combating vaccine hesitancy.
6 Steps for addressing vaccine issues in the workplace
You have a safety plan in place, established new cleaning protocols, and reviewed your workplace policies for necessary updates. Here, we explore important considerations around the layered and challenging topic of vaccines – you may consider bookmarking our dedicated COVID-19 Vaccine page for easy access.
Make foundational decisions
How a business chooses to address vaccinations – whether it’s to (or not to) mandate, to sign up for onsite vaccination clinics or not, or deciding between encouraging and incentivizing – permeate the resulting vaccination policy and communications. Leaders should thoroughly review each option and make the decision early in the re-opening process.
COVID-19 vaccines: A brief history and myth-busting
With myths and hesitancy surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, accurate information is doubly important. Here we cover essentials on vaccine development and address vaccination myths with facts to support your employee or customer-facing communications.
Background and development
In late 2020 and early 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for three COVID-19 vaccines produced by companies Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
Pfizer, the Manhattan-based pharmaceutical giant, began testing drugs for possible COVID-19 vaccines before teaming with German biotechnology firm BioNTech, after BioNTech’s drug Tozinameran showed effectiveness in fighting the virus. By summer, the companies produced four vaccine candidates and EUA was granted by the FDA for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine on December 11, 2020.
Moderna, a small Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, partnered with two federal institutions - the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the U.S Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA). After completing clinical trials, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was granted EUA by the FDA on December 18, 2020.
In 2020, the global American corporation Johnson & Johnson formed a not-for-profit partnership with three federal agencies, including BARDA, and dedicated over $1 billion to the vaccine project. Two European subsidiaries, Janssen Vaccines and Jansen Pharmaceuticals developed a candidate commonly referred to as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccine received EUA for their single-dose vaccine on February 27, 2021.
Promoting facts about the vaccine involves dispelling myths your employees may have heard from friends or online. The following list is drawn from Blue Shield’s longer, more comprehensive look at COVID-19 vaccine myths.
Myth 1: COVID-19 vaccines can give me COVID-19.
None of the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) can cause COVID-19. Side effects from the vaccine will vary in type, duration and severity, but receiving the vaccine will not result in the individual contracting COVID-19.
Is vaccine hesitancy a barrier in getting back to work?
Achieving herd immunity is heralded as crucial to stopping the transmission of COVID-19. Despite reassurance that approved vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary to defeat the coronavirus, vaccine hesitancy persists. We examine the possible reasons for employee reluctance and provide guidance for California employers in planning a return to the workplace.
Understanding vaccine hesitancy
A range of factors drives COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among your employees and customers, including political and cultural beliefs, fear of side effects, distrust of the vaccine testing process, and wide distribution of misinformation.
Hundreds of millions of doses have been administered in the U.S, with only a few cases of severe allergic reactions having been reported, and most were in people with a history of severe allergies.
More typical reactions are mild and have included chills, headaches, arm soreness, and fevers. These are common reactions to any vaccine, resulting from the immune response needed to give protection, and resolve within a few hours or a few days.
Public health officials continue to build awareness of vaccine safety and efficacy in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Guidance for employers
With misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines widely available, employers are encouraged to take a proactive role in reassuring their employee base by:
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Regular communication can encourage an open dialogue with employees, boost morale, and help manage misinformation.
Stay current on developments and share helpful resources with employees such as our COVID-19 member website, the California COVID-19 website, and CDC COVID-19 resources.
Guidance for employees that have already returned to work should be readily available and closely enforced. The CDC updates their return-to-work considerations and we regularly update our employer and broker resource center.
All about testing
While COVID-19 vaccines dominate headlines – and we encourage employers to prioritize the need for vaccines in their return to work plans – testing for COVID-19 can also help prevent infections and transmission in the workplace. Here we cover key information and resources to consider when incorporating COVID-19 testing into your return to the workplace strategy.
Note: in addition to our testing page, we’ve included information from Blue Shield’s coverage for testing FAQs page, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for testing in non-healthcare workplaces, and from California’s government page on testing.
Requiring testing for employees
According to the CDC, “In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic…testing to determine if an employee has [COVID-19] infection with an ‘accurate and reliable test’ is permissible as a condition to enter the workplace because an employee with the virus will ‘pose a direct threat to the health of others.’…[W]orkplace-based testing should not be conducted without the employee’s consent".
Types of tests
The two types of COVID-19 tests are diagnostic and serologic. Serologic tests look for antibodies to the COVID-19 virus in someone who was previously infected. Diagnostic tests can show if you have an active COVID-19 infection. Diagnostic tests fall into two categories: molecular tests (frequently referred to as PCR) that detect the virus genetic material and antigen tests that detect specific proteins from the virus. Antigen tests are not recommended for one-time testing of asymptomatic individuals as they are less sensitive than molecular tests.
Testing costs and coverage
Blue Shield will cover diagnostic tests at no out-of-pocket costs for a COVID-19 test provided, or ordered, by a healthcare provider. It’s important to note, required COVID-19 testing when screening for employment or returning to the workplace is not covered at this time. Review our dedicated testing coverage page for further information.
Locating testing sites
Considerations if using an on-site testing service
Blue Shield of California doesn’t offer on-site testing. However, a number of private companies launched mobile testing services over the last year. Employees undergoing testing should receive clear information about the test (name, type, purpose, manufacturer of the test, etc.) and any individual receiving a test is required to receive an FDA-approved patient fact sheet. See the CDC site for further information.
Vaccine and testing - communications toolkit for employers
Our B2B COVID-19 site offers an abundance of information for employers navigating COVID-19 and managing a safe return to the workplace. Here are some essential resources to help employers communicate effectively with their workforces, specifically regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
Addressing vaccine hesitancy
Visit the Blue Shield of California News Center for the latest news and updates on COVID-19