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AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin


From The Asian Reporter, V31, #1 (January 4, 2021), page 7.

Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant?

By The Associated Press

Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant?

Experts believe so, but theyíre working to confirm it.

The coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom has caused alarm because of the possibility that it might spread more easily. But even if that turns out to be true, experts say the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out will likely still work on the variant.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said data coming from Britain indicates the vaccines still will block the virus. But the U.S. also will do tests to be sure.

Viruses often undergo small changes as they reproduce and move through a population. In fact, the slight modifications are how scientists track the spread of a virus from one place to another.

But if a virus mutates significantly enough, one worry is that current vaccines might no longer offer as much protection. And although thatís a possibility to watch for over time with the coronavirus, experts say they donít believe it will be the case with the variant in the U.K.

"My expectation is, this will not be a problem," said Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for the U.S. governmentís COVID-19 vaccine push.

* * *

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

From The Asian Reporter, V31, #1 (January 4, 2021), page 7.

Will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines?

By The Associated Press

Will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines?

Not until thereís enough data from studies in different age groups, which will stretch well into 2021.

The Pfizer vaccine authorized in the U.S. in December is for people age 16 and older. Testing began in October in children as young as 12 years old and is expected to take several more months. The Food and Drug Administration will have to decide when thereís enough data to allow emergency use in this age group.

Depending on the results, younger children may be enrolled for study as well.

Moderna, which became the second COVID-19 vaccine greenlit in the U.S., began enrolling study participants between ages 12 and 17 in December, and will track them for a year. Testing in children younger than 12 is expected to start in early 2021.

It is uncertain if the results on younger children will come in time for vaccinations to begin before the next school year.

Positive outcomes in adult studies are reassuring and suggest it is safe to proceed in testing kids, said Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and director of its vaccine research program.

Even though children usually donít get very sick from COVID-19, they can spread the virus to others, said Dr. Robert Frenck, who is the lead researcher for Pfizerís study in kids at Cincinnati Childrenís Hospital. At least 1.6 million youth have been infected, 8,000+ have been hospitalized, and more than 160 have died from the virus, he noted.

"Itís really important, not only for themselves but also for society," Frenck said.

* * *

Can I stop wearing a mask after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

By The Associated Press

Can I stop wearing a mask after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

No. For a couple reasons, masks and social distancing will still be recommended for some time after people are vaccinated.

To start, the first coronavirus vaccines require two shots; Pfizerís second dose comes three weeks after the first and Modernaís comes after four weeks. And the effect of vaccinations generally arenít immediate.

People are expected to get some level of protection within a couple of weeks after the first shot. But full protection may not happen until a couple weeks after the second shot.

Itís also not yet known whether the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protect people from infection entirely, or just from symptoms. That means vaccinated people might still be able to get infected and pass the virus on, although it would likely be at a much lower rate, said Deborah Fuller, a vaccine expert at the University of Washington.

And even once vaccine supplies start ramping up, getting hundreds of millions shots into peopleís arms is expected to take months.

Fuller also noted vaccine testing is just starting in children, who wonít be able to get shots until study data indicates theyíre safe and effective for them as well.

Moncef Slaoui, head of the U.S. vaccine development effort, has estimated the country could maybe reach herd immunity as early as May, based on the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Thatís assuming there are no problems meeting manufacturersí supply estimates, and enough people step forward to be vaccinated.

* * *

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

By The Associated Press

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

Yes, with some exceptions.

Experts say employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesnít necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others.

"Employers generally have wide scope" to make rules for the workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. "Itís their business."

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has allowed companies to mandate the flu and other vaccines, and has also indicated they can require COVID-19 vaccines.

There are exceptions; for example, people can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

And even though employers can require vaccinations, there are reasons they might not want to.

Tracking compliance with mandatory vaccination would be an administrative burden, said Michelle S. Strowhiro, an employment adviser and lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery. Employers would also have to manage exemption requests ó not to mention legal claims that might arise.

As a result, many employers will likely strongly encourage vaccination without requiring it, Strowhiro said.


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