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Influenza, COVID-19 Vaccines and Vaccinations

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the conversations, news, and status of influenza, COVID-19, and their vaccines and vaccinations. Read more below.
  • Research published through SUNY Geneseo of limiting COVID-19 on college campuses has found that “masking was the most effective non-pharmaceutical way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on a college campus, followed by frequent testing and isolation of positive cases.”
  • CIDRAP is publishing a two-part commentary discussing masks. Part 1 explains “the differences in cloth face coverings and surgical masks, the science of respiratory protection, and the hierarchy of disease controls.” Part 2 outlines “what makes a good mask study and why so many fail.” See Part 1 here.
  • The FDA advisory panel has “unanimously approved a third and smaller dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for vulnerable groups. Approval aligns with Pfizer risk groups.” (CIDRAP 1). The FDA Panel voted unanimously to “recommend Johnson & Johnson booster shots, most likely clearing the way for all 15 million people who got the company’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine to receive a second shot.” (NYT1). Additionally, the FDA plans to “allow Americans to receive a different COVID-19 vaccine as a booster than the one they initially received, a move that could reduce the appeal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and provide flexibility to doctors and other vaccinators. The government would not recommend one shot over another, and it might note that using the same vaccine as a booster when possible is preferable, people familiar with the agency’s planning said. But vaccine providers could use their discretion to offer a different brand, a freedom that state health officials have been requesting for weeks. (NYT2)” Along these lines, the White House vaccination mandates have boosted COVID-19 vaccination rates, with “an average of 90% of employees taking the vaccine” among 3,500 organizations (CIDRAP 2). While mandates increased vaccination, apparently COVID-19 vaccine lotteries didn’t increase vaccine uptake (CIDRAP 3).
  • In a recent Nature survey, discussed in CIDRAP, of 321 scientists “who spoke out about COVID-19 to the media or on social media, about 42% said they had emotional or psychological distress afterward, 22% have received threats of physical or sexual violence, and 15% have received death threats.”
  • Colin Powell has died from complications of COVID-19.
  • In a recent review, the SARS-COV-2 dose “may affect infection rates, but current data do not show an association between viral dose and COVID-19 severity, according to a review of more than 100 SARS-CoV-2 studies that looks at COVID-19 infectious dose, viral load, severity, and variants.”
  • Cases are on the rise in Northern US States; this may be due to the incoming winter months leading to more individuals gathering inside or the start of school.

Flu Status:

  • A recently published article in Nature explores the possibility that there has been an influenza lineage extinction during COVID-19, specifically of the Influenza B/Yamagata lineage which hasn’t been isolated at all between April 2020 to August 2021.
  • This week from the WHO:
    • Globally, despite continued or even increased testing for influenza in some countries, influenza activity remained at lower levels than expected for this time of the year.
    • In the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere, influenza activity remained at inter-seasonal levels. Influenza B predominated among detections and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was increased and higher than in previous years in some countries.
    • Worldwide, influenza B (Victoria) viruses predominated.
    • In tropical South America, no influenza detections were reported, however RSV activity remained elevated in some countries.
    • In Southern Asia, influenza detections of predominately influenza B continued to be reported across reporting countries.
  • This week from the CDC:

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Recommendations for Industry

Influenza, COVID-19 Vaccines and Vaccinations

As we move further into the cooler months, influenza is becoming as much a part of the conversation as COVID-19. In today’s recommendations, we look at both diseases and current vaccination news and status.

Influenza. We continue to see a waning of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. – just in time for flu season. While activity is currently at lower than usual levels, the world has been immune-naïve to the flu for more than a year, so we cannot be sure the direction flu may take as the season progresses.  COVID-19 mitigation measures undoubtably suppressed influenza transmission last season, and it remains to be seen how ongoing mitigation measures and decreased population immunity to influenza will unfold.

Just as we’ve seen with COVID-19, the flu will spread from person to person and place to place, and TAG advises that you keep an eye on its movement and begin planning now for both vaccinations and absenteeism.

  • As you look at COVID-19 testing to fulfill the Vaccination/Testing Mandate, look at offering flu testing as well.
  • If you have previously offered flu vaccines at your place of business, consider adding COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. CDC has stated that it is safe for individuals to get both vaccines at the same time with possible side effects generally being similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines.
  • If you have not previously offered flu vaccines, you may want to consider doing so. Your group insurance provider often can advise you on options – or you can give TAG a call for recommendations.

COVID Vaccinations and Vaccines

  • A new paper from the UK that studied COVID-19 transmission from vaccinated people has shown that, while both symptomatic and asymptomatic fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus, the risk of transmission is significantly lower from asymptomatic people. This is because the viral loads in asymptomatic fully vaccinated people were significantly lower than in symptomatic fully vaccinated people.
  • TAG continues to state the importance of ongoing symptom monitoring and having anyone who is symptomatic staying home to help reduce spread. While the risk of transmission from asymptomatic fully vaccinated people exists, directing testing towards those with symptoms, regardless of vaccine status, will help reduce the risk of non-household transmission.
  • There have been media reports that FDA is nearing approval on the mixing or matching of vaccines, neither FDA nor any other government agency has made an announcement on that. TAG will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed.

In Case You Missed It

Public Health & Food Safety

  • The most recent IFT podcast discusses the current state of African Swine Fever which has been “spreading across the globe, killing millions of pigs.” It is considered a viable threat to the pork industry. This podcast discusses what the U.S. can do to protect its “hog population and how the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the problem.”
  • A recent assessment and study of ochratoxin A in coffee has found that there is “no evidence […] identified from historical data to suggest OTA is acutely toxic in humans from coffee consumption or other exposure sources. Therefore, findings from this assessment indicate that no PC [preventive control] is warranted for US coffee manufactures, based on the low severity and likelihood of risk according to margin-of-exposure estimates and historical data.” Read the assessment and study here.

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