COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions for Employers

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions for Employers

Employers have a role to play in helping employees understand information about the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine and increasing vaccination rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employers clearly communicate information about the available vaccines, and even offer work site vaccination events when vaccine supply is readily available.

Below are some frequently asked questions for employers that can be used to build factual communications for employees. And, while on-site COVID-19 vaccinations are not available yet, Quest Diagnostics is planning to offer an end-to-end vaccination solution for employers, along with our other Return-to-work COVID-19 workforce testing solutions.

Why is offering workplace vaccinations for COVID-19 important?

Ending the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and reaching herd immunity for the disease will require a large portion of the population to receive vaccinations. Since there are currently no vaccines approved for use in those ages 16 and under, an estimated 90% of American adults will need to be vaccinated or have COVID-19 antibodies from prior infection in order for the United States to achieve reasonable herd immunity.1

Many factors in an individual’s life can influence the decision as to whether to get vaccinated for COVID-19, including social and political factors. Employers, as a key provider of health insurance in the United States for most adults, can play a large role in helping bolster confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and increasing vaccination rates.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity is the phrase used to describe indirect protection when a population at large is immune to an infectious disease through vaccination or immunity developed from a prior infection with the disease. Herd immunity is essential in protecting a population’s most vulnerable people, including those who may be unable to receive a vaccine for health-related reasons.2 Research is still ongoing as scientists attempt to determine how long immunity to COVID-19 lasts after vaccination or prior infection.

What COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in the United States?

There are currently 3 vaccines that have an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration for use in preventing SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine3
    • 2-dose vaccine where doses must be separated by 21 days
    • EUA for individuals aged 16 and older
    • Requires cold storage (between -112°F and -76°F)
    • mRNA vaccine
    • Shown to be 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness4
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine5
    • 2-dose vaccine where doses must be separated by 28 days
    • EUA for individuals aged 18 and older
    • Requires cold storage (between -13°F and 5°F)
    • mRNA vaccine
    • Shown to be 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness6
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine7
    • Single-dose vaccine
    • EUA for individuals aged 18 and older
    • Requires refrigerated storage (between 36°F and 46°F)
    • A viral vector vaccine
    • Shown to be 66.3% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness
    • Update as of April 13: Currently, this vaccine distribution is paused due to a “rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine.”12

Why would anyone want to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if it is so much less effective at preventing disease?

While efficacy (the percentage indicating how well a vaccine prevents illness) is an important metric, it is not the only way to determine if a vaccine is valuable. Even though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is shown to be 66.3% effective at preventing COVID-19, it is also shown to be 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death among individuals who did get sick.8 During the trials, no one who got COVID-19 at least 4 weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was hospitalized. Additionally, since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose vaccine, it may be a more convenient option for individuals who travel or who are unlikely to follow up on a second dose (needed for the other vaccine options).

All COVID-19 vaccines that have received the EUA from the Food and Drug Administration, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, have been proven to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 and reducing the severity of the illness in individuals who do become infected.9

What do the different types of COVID-19 vaccines mean? What is the difference between a mRNA vaccine (like Pfizer and Moderna) and a viral vector vaccine (like Johnson & Johnson)?

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines do not contain live virus. Instead, they contain mRNA, which is the genetic material that tells cells in the body how to create proteins. For COVID-19, mRNA vaccines provide a set of instructions to cells in the body for developing a harmless piece of the spike protein (the protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus). After developing this protein, the body recognizes it as foreign, and begins to develop an immune response.10

Vector vaccines contain live virus, but not the virus that causes the infectious disease. Vector vaccines use an altered version of a different, harmless virus to deliver information to cells in the body. In the case of COVID-19, this harmless virus (called the “vector”) enters the body and provides the set of instructions to cells in the body for developing a harmless piece of the spike protein. After developing this protein, the body recognizes it as foreign, and begins to develop an immune response.11

Both types of vaccines mimic the process the body goes through when developing immunity to an actual COVID-19 infection.

When will employers be able to offer COVID-19 vaccines to employees?

Currently, vaccine supply is still limited, and purchasing vaccines/vaccine distribution is controlled by the federal government. Some employers may be able to receive vaccinations for employees based on their industry and state and local guidelines; however, the majority of employers will not be able to begin offering work site vaccinations to their employees until vaccine supply is no longer a concern.

What is Quest Diagnostics planning on doing to help employers vaccinate their populations?

When vaccine supply is no longer a concern, and vaccines can be commercially purchased, Quest Diagnostics will be offering an end-to-end COVID-19 vaccine solution to employers. At this time, it is unclear when COVID-19 vaccinations will be made available to the public, but Quest Diagnostics has developed a plan for convenient on-site vaccinations.

Due to cold storage requirements, Quest is only looking at obtaining either Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to facilitate work site vaccination events. Vaccine supply, shipment, and staffing will be provided by Quest at a nationwide level. Additionally, Quest will cover all required vaccination reporting to state and local health agencies.

Online scheduling and event management will also be included in the end-to-end solution, with available support for employees via the Service Center. The participant experience will be different depending on which vaccine Quest is able to secure, but our systems are prepared to accommodate the single-dose or 2-dose options.

At this time, Quest is offering COVID-19 testing for employees and employers.

If you are interested in learning more about on-site vaccinations from Quest Diagnostics or other Return-to-work solutions, please fill in this form.

1. Business Group on Health. Employers’ role in the COVID-19 vaccination effort. March 1, 2021. Accessed March 16, 2021. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/employers-role-in-the-covid-19-vaccination-effort
2. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): herd immunity, lockdowns and COVID-19. December 31, 2020. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/herd-immunity-lockdowns-and-covid-19
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. February 22, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/pfizer/index.html
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. March 4, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Pfizer-BioNTech.html
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. February 22, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/moderna/index.html
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. March 4, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Moderna.html
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson). March 11, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/janssen/index.html
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information about Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. March 4, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Janssen.html
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. January 5, 2021. Accessed March 21, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits.html
10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. March 4, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mRNA.html
11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding viral vector COVID-19 vaccines. March 2, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/viralvector.html
12.  Food and Drug Administration. Joint CDC and FDA statement on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. April 13, 2021. Accessed April 20, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/joint-cdc-and-fda-statement-johnson-johnson-covid-19-vaccine

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