Risk & Business Magazine JGS Insurance Fall 2021 - Page 3

COVID INSIGHTS

It Ain ’ t Over ’ til It ’ s Over

BY : ERIC P . WOKAS , CSP ARM RISK CONTROL CONSULTANT
JGS INSURANCE

Well folks , 18 months into the pandemic and nine months into vaccine availability and we still have tens of thousands of people infected daily . So why has this continued to be an issue and how should businesses respond ?

According to the CDC , the coronavirus vaccines provide strong protection against the virus , including the Delta variant . However , evidence is mounting that immunity wears for both vaccinated and from Covid natural infection immunity after about 8 months . High risk groups ( people over 65 , healthcare workers and those with immunosuppressed systems ) should booster shots . Eventually , booster shots may be needed by all groups .
Breakthrough infections — Covid cases among fully vaccinated people — are rare , with most cases being asymptomatic . In addition , if you are infected and asymptomatic , you are carrying much less virus and therefore are less able to pass it on to others , but you can still be contagious . For this reason , the CDC guidance is that vaccinated people should wear masks in certain situations where proximity to others is an issue . Unvaccinated should always wear masks when in public situations or near other unvaccinated people .
Consequently , with companies gearing up for employees returning to work under the “ new normal ,” what are the best options to prevent Covid illness , minimize liability , maintain productivity , keep good employee relations , and protect employee privacy ? Since vaccines have proven to be effective and safe — mandatory vaccinations . As per the EEOC , employers have the legal right to make Covid vaccination a work requirement . To verify vaccination , commonly , vaccine cards are used . Employers can protect employee privacy by maintaining vaccination status confidential , usually in the employee personnel file .
As vaccine cards may potentially be needed both in the workplace and for activities outside of work , having a copy in the employee ’ s personnel file can ensure safe keeping . If a new card is needed , the first action is to contact the employee ’ s vaccination provider site directly to find out how to get a replacement card . If unable to contact their provider , another option is to contact their state health department ’ s Immunization Information System ( IIS ).
But should an employer get involved in the controversial question of vaccination mandate for employees ? And what to do if an employee refuses ? Throughout history , societies have struggled with vaccine mandates . Opponents argue that individuals should be allowed to make their own health decisions and bear the consequences . Supporters of mandates respond that society has a duty to protect its citizens , including those who cannot be vaccinated ( for Covid , young children and some immunocompromised people ), putting at risk other voluntarily unvaccinated people and burdening the healthcare system .
According to a Morning Consult Poll , America is one of the few countries with enough vaccines at its disposal to protect every resident — and yet it has the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy or refusal of any nation except Russia .
While a national mandate may be unconstitutional , herd immunity in the United States has been achieved through state and local government vaccine mandates over many other diseases , including smallpox , polio , mumps , rubella , and diphtheria .
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Americans who opposed getting vaccinated and later changed their minds found that a mandate is a major reason to finally get vaccinated .
In the United States , the federal government and many major corporations — Microsoft , Disney , and Walmart , to name a few — have enacted vaccine mandates including for new hires . When the policies were announced , some protested , but the number of vaccine appointments surged .
As time goes on and the pandemic begins to wane , the questions will concern booster shot requirements , vaccine card enforcement , and of course , masking . Most likely , Covid will join influenza and HPV as diseases that American society chooses to accept , so the disease will always be with us .
Well folks , as Yogi Berra claimed to have uttered during the 1973 National League pennant race , “ It ain ’ t over ’ til it ’ s over .” While you can ’ t argue with that , you can argue if Yogi really did say everything he said . In closing , if you can , get vaccinated .+
Eric Wokas has over 25 years of experience as a risk management consultant working for various major property / casualty insurance carriers including Continental , Zurich and Gerling as well as Aon an international insurance brokerage firm . At JGS Insurance Eric Wokas continues to assist clients in development and implementation of practical solutions in reducing risk .
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