Great news! Essential workers will have access to the COVID-19 booster shot by the end of September.
These amazing frontline heroes have been working throughout the pandemic and doing their best to provide health services and healthy environments for employees, customers, patients, passengers, and visitors.
They have been exposed to some of the highest-risk environments and have had to deal with the mental and physical stress of the potential for catching and/or unknowingly spreading the COVID-19 virus.
When the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines became available under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), essential workers were one of the first groups to be given access to the original COVID-19 vaccines. This not only allowed them to better protect themselves and their families but also paved the way for a healthier future.
As new variants for COVID-19 have become more rampant, especially Delta, there have been many more breakthrough cases (reports of fully vaccinated individuals catching and suffering from COVID-19). This has once again exposed frontline heroes to additional safety and health risks.
mRNA booster shots
The good news is that essential workers will be given preferential treatment to receive the third booster shot.
Public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Administration’s plan for COVID-19 booster shots for the American people.
At this time, the booster shots will only be available for the recipients of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 two-shot mRNA vaccine. The booster will be available after September 20, 2021, for all essential workers.
Why will Americans need a booster shot?
Why will Americans need a booster shot?
The studies have shown that the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines reduces over time.
In layman’s terms, this is primarily because the “directions to fight the virus” are still there, but if the body is not “exercising” its combat techniques against the virus, it tends to find it less of a threat over time. That gives the SARS-COV-2 virus (and most especially its variants) more time to replicate inside the body before it is recognized as a threat, and therefore, there are more cases of the virus “breaking through” and infecting vaccinated individuals.
During that infection time, vaccinated individuals can also infect others, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
The new variants, especially the Delta variant, have proven to be extremely dangerous to unvaccinated individuals. The number of hospitalizations is increasing by record numbers, and sadly, the death toll is also rising.
Public health and medical experts are recommending that essential workers consider receiving the booster shot approximately six to eight months after they receive their second dose. Since many essential workers received their second dose between January and March, the time for a booster is quickly approaching for many frontline heroes.
The booster shot has been found to “re-energize” the body's immune system against COVID-19 variants (even the Delta variant).
A study in New York found that the original two shots of the mRNA vaccine continued to protect against hospitalizations at about 95%. But the vaccine's effectiveness against new variants declined from about 92% in early May to about 80% in late July.
The Pfizer mRNA booster is currently being administered in Israel, a country with one of the highest vaccination rates. Israel was beginning to “get back to normal” before the Delta variant came to the country and caused breakthrough cases that infected many residents. Now, less than a month into a COVID-19 vaccine booster drive, Israel is seeing signs of a positive impact. Over a million Israelis have received the booster, the rate of infection is steadily falling, and the outbreak is subsiding.
What about Johnson and Johnson?
The single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine that is approved for EUA is also considered a booster shot.
Distribution of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, so additional tests and trials are slightly behind Moderna and Pfizer (approved in December 2020). J&J is continuing to do research and work with health officials and medical experts. Once that data is complete, the public will be informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well.
At the end of the day, the health and safety needs of employees need to be a main priority for employers.
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 or any of its variants in your facility, continue to focus on the wellbeing of your staff, improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) and ventilation within your building, use EPA-approved disinfectants, and encourage employee vaccinations, mask-wearing and washing hands thoroughly and often.
For more helpful ideas and tips for staying open and operating a facility, check out Stay Open Responsibly, Post-Pandemic Best Practices for Facilities Maintenance.