These days it is difficult to watch or read the news without hearing about the COVID-19 vaccine. Distribution, availability and administration all continue to be recurring topics as the vaccine reaches each state. Although vaccination against COVID-19 should remain of utmost importance, it is also critical that adults and children are up to date on routine vaccines. By staying current with recommended vaccines, the risk of catching and spreading vaccine-preventable diseases is decreased, which ultimately will help to reduce the burden on our current health care system.

What do you and your employees need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine?

A common misconception about vaccines is that they cure diseases. Now more than ever, it is imperative to understand that vaccines prevent diseases and do not cure them. So, what does this mean in terms of COVID-19? Essentially, this means that we will need to continue to wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, and avoid crowds to protect ourselves and the people we care about most. Eventually we will return to a new normal, but in the meantime, people will need to continue practicing these precautions until most Americans are vaccinated against the virus.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are a two-shot series. The timing of the second dose depends on which vaccine was initially received. Pfizer’s vaccine should be administered three weeks (21 days) after the initial dose while Moderna’s vaccine should be administered four weeks (28 days) later. There are two important things to note about this vaccine series: 1) you do not experience full efficacy unless you receive both doses and 2) it takes the body time to form an immune response after receiving each dose. These factors mean that you can still catch and spread COVID-19 after you receive the initial dose and wait for the second dose to be administered. Your body also takes time to gain immunity after receiving the second dose as well. If you experience side effects after either dose, it usually signals that the vaccine is working and your body is forming an immune response. A key point to remember: you cannot get coronavirus from the COVID-19 vaccine.

Are you up to date on your routine immunizations?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults should receive a seasonal flu shot and a tetanus vaccine. Immunity against tetanus and diphtheria can be gained by receiving the Tdap or Td vaccine. The main difference between these two vaccines is that Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) while Td only provides protection against tetanus and diphtheria.

Most people receive the Tdap vaccine as an adolescent. However, if an adult has never received the Tdap vaccine, then he or she should receive the Tdap vaccine first. Adolescents and adults should continue to receive a booster every 10 years thereafter. Either the Td or Tdap vaccine is considered an acceptable booster since the booster is needed to maintain protection against tetanus and diphtheria. Pregnant women are one notable exception to the booster every 10 years. In this specific patient population, the Tdap vaccine should be administered during each pregnancy preferably during weeks 27 through 36.

Depending on multiple factors, such as age, health conditions, and occupation, it is recommended that adults receive other routine vaccinations throughout their lifetime. Some of these vaccines help to protect against more common infections, including pneumonia, shingles and hepatitis. A helpful resource to assist you in determining which vaccines you should receive, finding vaccines in your area and tools to keep track of your vaccination record can be found on the CDC’s website at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/index.html.

Vaccines are a safe, effective way to prevent diseases and infections. Employers should encourage their employees to receive routine vaccinations since they can help to minimize missed time from work, reduce medical bills and promote overall health. As an extension of your pharmacy benefit, we recommend you receive the COVID-19 vaccine as well as all indicated routine vaccinations. Discussions with your physician or pharmacist can help you to figure out which vaccines are recommended for you.

For additional information about routine vaccinations visit the CDC’s website and access the fact sheets at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/resources.html.

Help to end the COVID-19 public health crisis and do your part to prevent the spread of other serious diseases: get vaccinated.

For further discussion, please email Kelsey at kdieters@employershealthco.com.

Author

Matthew Harman, PharmD, MPH

Matthew Harman, PharmD, MPH

Vice President, Clinical Solutions

As Vice President of Clinical Solutions, Matt works to monitor, evaluate and improve the pharmacy plan performance of the Employers Health $1.5 billion PBM group purchasing programs with CVS, OptumRx, and Elixir.