Vaccinated Healthcare Workers with COVID-19 have 'Much Shorter Period of Sick Leave'

27 Sep, 2021 Nancy Grover

                               

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Vaccines do not guarantee the recipient will steer clear of the coronavirus. However, new research shows it can reduce the incidence and days of sick leave for those who are asymptomatic but test positive.

Researchers in Northern Italy conducted a 5-month study of healthcare workers with direct patient contact. In addition to a lower percentage of employees who contracted the virus, there was a “statistically significant” difference in the number of sick leave days needed for those vaccinated compared to unvaccinated workers. The findings were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The Study

More than 600 asymptomatic healthcare workers were involved in the study between October 2020 and March 2021. All received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioTech’s Comirnaty vaccine between December 2020 and January 2021, and the second dose between January 17 to February 18.

The researchers investigated the effect of the vaccination on asymptomatic workers by comparing the trend of cases within 90 days before and after the first dose. The asymptomatic workers were screened on nasal swabs every two weeks.

In the 90 days prior to receiving the first dose of the vaccine, 105 of the workers tested positive for the virus. The 90-day post-vaccine follow up was conducted on the remaining 564 workers.

Results

The percentage of healthcare workers who tested positive for the virus was reduced by more than half following vaccination. Before the vaccine was administered, 15.6 percent of the employees were positive. That percentage dropped to just 7.5 percent – or 42 workers – after the vaccine.

“Our study investigated the effects of COVID-19 vaccination in a cohort of asymptomatic [healthcare workers], confirming that the vaccination with BNT162b2 (Pfizer) also reduced the incidence of new cases of COVID-19 without symptoms. However, even after the administration of the first or second vaccine dose, some vaccinated [healthcare workers] still tested positive on RT-PCR,” according to the authors. “All these findings were only identified because a bi-weekly screening was carried out as required by our health policies. All were asymptomatic at the time of testing and during the quarantine period. Our data are consistent with those reported in the literature.”

The study also found a difference in the incidence of the virus after just the first dose of the vaccine was administered. The results “unexpectedly revealed a good efficacy of the first dose in the reduction of asymptomatic infection,” the researchers wrote.

In addition to the percentage of workers testing positive for the virus after given the vaccine, the researchers also sought to evaluate whether there was an effect on the number of sick days. They found among the vaccinated workers who tested positive, a “high percentage” had a negative test at the end of the quarantine period on the 10th day, the minimum number of days recommended before repeating a positive test in accordance with international guidelines.

“The median number of sick leave days was 12 days (range, 10-34 days) for unvaccinated [healthcare workers] and 11 days (range, 10-23 days) for vaccinated [healthcare workers],” the study said. “A negative RTPCR was observed at the first control between the 10th and 11th day from the first testing in 80% of vaccinated [healthcare workers] and in 37% of unvaccinated [healthcare workers]. The difference between sick leave days between before and after the vaccination was statistically significant.”

The findings have implications for organizations in terms of the costs as well as losses in productivity. A recent study by the Integrated Benefits Institute found that employers could spend more than $50 billion for absent workers due to the virus.

“Asymptomatic COVID-19 infection among vaccinated workers shows a more benign trend (i.e., absence of symptoms and shorter duration of sick leave) compared to the natural course of the disease,” the authors wrote. “These data suggest the significant and direct implications of vaccination on the sustainability of the health system and labor costs.”

 


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for WorkersCompensation.com. She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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