Your team has been vaccinated, and you’re ready to return to work. Learn how to welcome employees back safely with our Q&A, featuring Dr. Katie Passaretti.

Employer Solutions | 4 months ago

So Your Employees Have Been Vaccinated. What Happens Next?

Your team has been vaccinated, and you’re ready to return to work. Learn how to welcome employees back safely with our Q&A, featuring Dr. Katie Passaretti.

It’s arrived – the COVID-19 vaccine we’ve all been waiting for. So what now? After your employees have been vaccinated, should they return to work? And if so, should they continue wearing masks?

These unprecedented times come with a series of unknowns. To help, we’ve invited Katie Passaretti, MD, Atrium Health medical director of infection prevention, to guide employers in safely reopening their workplace. Please note her answers to the questions below.

After an employee receives both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, should they still take precautions such as social distancing, wearing a mask, etc.?

In short – yes.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines, when taken in a series of two, are 95% effective in protecting individuals from getting the virus. However, we are still unsure if vaccinated people can be virus carriers. With this uncertainty and the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in our community, it is wise for all of us to continue practicing COVID-safe measures.

In addition, the possibility of new COVID-19 strains is on our radar. While the new strain of COVID-19 from the United Kingdom (UK) appears to be susceptible to the vaccines, there is always the possibility that other new strains will not be. As we research the prospect of this situation, it’s important that we all continue practicing COVID-safe precautions in the workplace and out in public.

If your entire workforce has been vaccinated, should workplace precautions adjust?

Even when your entire team has been vaccinated, worksite protective measures should stay in place. Measures should include urging employees to:

  • Stay home if they are sick
  • Wear a mask
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wash hands often
  • Avoid touching their faces

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state authorities will advise when restrictions should be lifted. Employers should not go “back to normal” until instructed by these authorities.

Besides preventing the spread of COVID-19, what other positive effects can be attributed to COVID-safe behaviors? 

This year, there has been an unprecedented low number of flu cases, fewer than 20 within Atrium Health, to be exact. The precautions taken to ward off the spread of COVID-19 appear to be working on non-COVID sicknesses as well.

So what does this mean for you? Employers enforcing the use of masking, social distancing, hand-washing and other measures could not only decrease the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, but also the incidence of other sicknesses.

What is the point of vaccination if employees must continue wearing masks and social distancing?

As was mentioned above, the COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be 95% effective in shielding the vaccinated from COVID-19. This number represents all populations, including those with complex medical issues. In testing, the vaccines showed equal protection and safety among diverse groups, including people with health complications.

Are the vaccines safe? 

Yes, the vaccines are safe. COVID-19 vaccine testing was held to the same level of safety and efficacy standards as any other vaccine must be. However, because COVID-19 vaccine research was not interrupted by roadblocks in testing or lack of funding, the vaccines were able to be released sooner than others have in the past.

In a nutshell, COVID-19 vaccines provide instructions to your cells to create a protective protein against the virus. Nothing in the COVID-19 vaccines incorporates into your DNA.

Any vaccine reactions typically happen within a day or two to a week. At this time, we do not anticipate any long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, it is extremely rare to see long-term effects or complications from any vaccine.

Is there anything else employers should keep in mind? 

In order for the vaccines to be effective, employees must receive both doses. Keep in mind that, after the second dose is administered, employees may feel sick for a day or two. It’s important their second dose is in concert with a scheduled day off or appropriated sick time.

So far, around 60% of vaccinated individuals have experienced side effects similar to flu-like symptoms. As an employer, you should consider giving your employees leeway in their schedules following vaccinations. If you plan to vaccinate large portions of your workforce at once, it is wise to stagger vaccination dates to allow those feeling sick post-vaccination to rest for a day or two.

Employees approved for COVID-19 vaccines can schedule their vaccination appointments via the MyAtriumHealth portal. For those eligible who do not have a MyAtriumHealth account, it is free and easy to sign up. To learn more about employee vaccination, please visit AtriumHealth.org/COVID19Vaccine