Vaccines and Immunizations
Everyone working around other people, no matter their industry, should be up to date on their vaccinations. From birth to 18 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a safe dosage of various vaccines spaced out and administered at the appropriate times. Many of these vaccines require a second dose or booster, which must also be administered for the vaccine to be effective. These vaccines save lives and also prevent the spread of treatable diseases.
There are many situations that require a person to produce proof of immunization, including attending school or working in certain industries. Instead of relying on old or outdated immunization records, a simple antibody test which checks the blood for the current level of immunity. If the blood tests shows that the person is immune – great! No vaccine is necessary. If it shows the opposite – in other words, there are not enough antibodies to provide protection – then the person should get a vaccine.
This simple process of first using non-invasive blood tests known as Titer tests to determine current immunity, followed by the administration of vaccines to the non-immune, allows HR departments and school administrators ensure that applicants, employees, and students are immunized without unnecessarily over-vaccinating people when they don’t really need them. It also saves money, since only the people who truly need an immunization or a booster get them.
Common immunizations are available for employee health, and many workplaces and HR professionals should understand why it’s so important to ensure their staff is up to date on their vaccines. Not only does confirmed immunity protect the staff, it can also protect vulnerable individuals who the staff interacts with on the job.
Which Industries Require Immunizations?
Various industries require immunizations as part of their pre-employment occupational health screening services. Typically, anyone who works with vulnerable populations like the sick, young, or elderly, are also required to get annual employee health exams including titer tests to check their levels of immunity to these same highly infectious diseases. Titers are followed up with immunizations when needed. Some of the common occupations which require employee health vaccines include home health care attendants, nursing home staff, teachers, professors, and hospital workers.
Complying with industry vaccination requirements ensures that these workers will not contract these illnesses from their patients or colleagues; it also ensures they won’t transmit it either through interpersonal contact or the handling of materials that may contain or spread infections. People with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to infection and illness, so it is vital that their caretakers are fully vaccinated.
Public Health Service Act
In the United States, the Public Health Service Act authorizes the U.S. Surgeon General, with support from the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to assist states “in the prevention and suppression of communicable diseases.” This law helps to ensure that there’s no confusion over which workers must submit mandatory proof of vaccination status.
While it’s clear that the healthcare and education sectors have an intrinsic need to require vaccinations, it can be more confusing in other industries. For example, Disneyland recently made headlines for being the epicenter of a large measles outbreak. Company executives responded by instituting a policy mandating staff to provide proof of immunity before returning to work.
To be clear, any workplace is permitted to ask employees to provide proof of immunity, and to request that they get vaccinated if they are non-immune. However, employers may not discriminate against those who are unable to be vaccinated for either medical, religious, or philosophical reasons. As one might imagine, this can be open to wide interpretation in some cases.
The Most Common Immunizations Required for Employment
Companies typically screen for immunity to diseases that are highly transmissable, preventable by vaccine, and easy to test for current antibody levels.
A quick antibody blood test can check your immunity for various forms of hepatitis, including Hep A, Hep B, and Hep C. This test also checks whether the employee is a carrier for Hepatitis B without being symptomatic, which is not uncommon. If the employee received a vaccine for Hepatitis B recently, taking this test within 2 months of the last vaccine dose can confirm their immunity.
An MMR titer can accurately determine if a person is immune to measles, mumps, and rubella. If the test does not provide evidence of immunity, at least vaccine is required, and sometimes a second dose is necessary. The second dose should be given four weeks after the first. One to two months after the vaccine is given, an MMR antibody test can be performed to ensure the person has produced the expected antibodies that protect against measles, mumps, and rubella are working as expected.
Varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, is a disease that many older people assume that they immune to because they had it as a child. Younger people may have been fortunate enough to have received the two-dose varicella vaccine which became available in 1995. Either way, to ensure a person has retained immunity, employers can order a varicella titer. Adults who are shown to not have immunity can receive the varicella immunization.
TDAP stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. While young children may receive as many as five doses of a similar vaccine, known as DTaP, the first TDAP vaccine is typically given at 11-12 years of age. The CDC recommends that additional TDAP vaccines should be given every 10 years. Because children are extremely vulnerable to tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis, it is critical that people who work with kids are up to date with their vaccinations. Many pregnant women receive a TDAP at the start of their third trimester to prevent their unborn from developing whooping cough after birth.
Tetanus poses an immediate risk for people who are burned or cut, particularly if the skin is pierced by rusty metal, such as may happen when accidentally stepping on a nail. Therefore, anyone who works with heavy materials or on construction sites should consider checking their blood to make sure that they are still protected. Luckily, getting a tetanus shot is simple and easy, and provides peace of mind just in case an accident occurs.