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Giving your employees a shot in the arm

Giving your employees a shot in the arm

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We are in the midst of the most aggressive worldwide vaccination effort since the 1950’s polio pandemic. While most working-age Americans may not recall those turbulent times, polio (the disease caused by the virus poliomyelitis) was terrifying because it often resulted in paralysis of the lower extremities. Many people afflicted with polio also required an “iron lung” or a machine to help them breathe.  Fortunately, two doses of Salk’s polio vaccine were 90% effective, and three doses boosted the effectiveness to 99-100%.

Polio is a fading memory for most Americans today, but those who endured the polio scare remember the clear parallels of quarantines, school closures and uncertainty. And, while polio seems a thing of the past within the U.S., it is a somber reminder that there is no cure for the disease and several countries in the world remain endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, due to the lack of immunizations.

Now, over a year of coronavirus pandemic closures, cancellations and postponements, everyone is eager to think about returning to work, school, sports, family celebrations, and social activities. No one is sure when the pandemic will be over, but every person who gets protection from the coronavirus via the vaccine, helps us move closer to normal life.

Combating vaccine hesitancy
The recent announcement that Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine adds yet another efficacious vaccine to those manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer. For many, this news provides further hope that there is a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Others, though, are experiencing skepticism, doubt, or mistrust, and may view the vaccine effort differently.

Unfortunately, social media is full of false claims about the vaccines, and this may derail the current vaccine campaign. The best way to alleviate your employee’s concerns is to present the facts.

To counter some of the facts that can be found online it’s important to let employees know:

  1. The vaccines cannot give you COVID-19
  2. Vaccines have not been linked to any long-term health problems
  3. There is no evidence that the vaccine causes infertility
  4. The vaccine does not alter your DNA
  5. The three vaccines available are not “fake”
  6. The vaccines do not contain microchips

Facts about the vaccine
Some people believe that the COVID-19 vaccine development was too fast. It is true that the COVID-19 vaccinations where developed more quickly than vaccinations in the past, but this was not due to cutting corners on testing for safety and efficacy. Scientists have been working for many years to develop a process to make vaccines quickly in case there was an infectious disease pandemic like we are seeing with COVID-19.

Testing of the vaccine was done with a diverse population and included 10% Black, 20% Hispanic, and 25% older age participants. Testing also engaged people having specific chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart and respiratory conditions. New and future trials will also include pregnant women and children under 12.

Some people are worried about reported side effects. The vaccines do not contain live coronavirus, and you cannot and will not get COVID-19 from getting vaccinated. After the shots, you might experience a sore arm, a mild fever or body aches, but this doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. These symptoms, if they happen at all, are temporary, usually lasting only a day or two. They signal a natural response as your body’s immune system learns to recognize and fight the coronavirus.

A small number of people have had a severe allergic reaction (called “anaphylaxis”) immediately after vaccination, but this is extremely rare. That is why you will be asked to stay for 15–30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. In the event you have a rare allergic reaction, you will receive immediate treatment.

Vaccine brand hesitancy
Not only are we seeing vaccine hesitancy, but we’re now seeing potential for brand hesitancy. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been issued emergency use authorization, and some Americans are worried that this vaccine is an inferior product and may not be worth it getting. The perception stems from a headline that rates the efficacy rates of the 3 vaccines: 72% for Johnson and Johnson compared with 94% for Moderna and 95% for Pfizer.

These headline rates are misleading in many ways. No vaccine is 100% effective, but this does not make it an ineffective tool for controlling disease and preventing deaths. All of the available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, and so far, are specifically effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

What’s at stake
The COVID-19 pandemic represents one of the greatest public health challenges the United States has ever seen. To combat it, we need to increase the employee’s acceptance of safe, highly effective vaccines. By promoting factual information about vaccination to employees and their families, employers can help us achieve herd immunity and thereby prevent further economic disruption, illness, and death.

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