More than 39 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and about a quarter of the population has had a minimum of one dose, according to the CDC. While the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine exists as a single-dose option, both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations require two doses spaced weeks apart.
People could experience various symptoms following either of these shots and more intense reactions could limit a person’s ability to work. There are a number of considerations for employers and employees to keep in mind when planning their workweek around an upcoming vaccination; especially the second dose.
SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)
COVID-19 vaccine side effects
After receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, possible side effects include headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea, tiredness as well as pain, redness, and swelling on the injected arm, according to the CDC, and these symptoms may be “more intense” after the second shot compared to the first.
Don Moore, president of Moore Tech Solutions, said he and his wife did not experience any side effects after the first dose but both developed “flu-like symptoms” in the early evening after their noon vaccinations with elevated temperatures and “fitful” sleep.” The following day Moore said the couple had “basically zero energy” with “low appetite” and elevated temperatures but were “back to feeling normal” the next morning.
“Though we have technical jobs that keep us tied to our desks, we could not have been productive that day after, and I am certain that a job requiring physical activity would be too much of a challenge. In short – be prepared to be feeling ill enough to take one day off of work,” Moore said.
Mike Gnitecki, who works in healthcare as a paramedic, said most people seem to have mild or moderate symptoms for about 24 hours after their second shot and recommended that people plan to take the following day off.
It’s important to note that some people may be more likely to have side effects than others.
“Symptoms are an indicator of immune response, which can be good signs your body is producing antibodies. Those with a compromised immune system may have a blunted reaction,” said Saydi Akgul, a public health professional.
If possible, Saydi suggested that people “strategically schedule” their vaccination appointment so that they have a “weekend or a day ahead” of them, adding that it “may be wise” to inform commitments (employers, teachers, etc.) about an upcoming vaccination as a day off may be needed.
Eropa Stein, founder of Hyre, recommended giving employees a paid half-day on Thursday or Friday for vaccination.
“That way, if they experience side effects they can have the rest of the day off. In the rare case that the side effects are more severe, they can call in for sick leave,” Stein said.
Additionally, Stein suggested letting employees know that they can work remotely or take a sick leave through the end of the week.
“It is important that your staff are supported in getting vaccinated,” Stein said.
A number of companies are offering assistance to help employees obtain vaccination appointments. Chris Adams, founder of ModestFish, said he has assisted with scheduling vaccinations for two teams and recently finished the second dose vaccination for most of his workforce.
Although the team did not “experience any issues at all” with the first round of vaccines, Adams Adams said half to three-quarters of employees experienced “slight side effects” and some needed to go home early after their second dose.
“If I could give any recommendations at all for employees having their teams vaccinations scheduled, it would be to have them scheduled on a Thursday,” Adams said, noting that this would allow employees to rest if they experience side effects.
With millions of Americans lined up for vaccines, business continuity and potential absences will be important considerations for teams in the months ahead.
“It’s best to plot your Covid vaccine and consult with your HR for the off days you will request and do not schedule it on a specific day where the company needs you the most,” said James Page, a human resource executive at Cryptohead.
For managers, Page recommended against scheduling a vaccination the last week of a month because that’s usually when teams plan for the next month.
“Always be considerate of the company’s schedule, too,” Page said.
For individuals overseeing other employees, Page suggested delegating tasks “as early as possible so that [employees] can adjust their working schedules and pace.” On the flip side, employees should ask their boss “what tasks you can do in advance,” Page said, so employees “won’t have a load of work piling up” after their vaccination.
Scheduling a vaccination appointment can be a time-intensive undertaking and picking a specific date amid high demand can be difficult. Many employees may be unable to select a Friday or weekend time slot and instead will need to take what is available at a given time. This could lead to vaccination overlaps in-house, potentially involving critical members on the same team or department.
Alison Pearson, head of HR at Hal Waldman & Associates, said most bosses would expect employees to make their appointment for a day that “tends to be slower,” but most would be understanding if employees are unable to choose their exact vaccination day so long as people communicate about being out and the “potential for needing an extra day or two to recuperate.”
“As long as you keep the line of communication open and show a concerted effort in trying to avoid a disruption in the office, you should stay in your boss’s graces,” Pearson said.