Current News and Events

Four things to know: COVID-19 developments

October 11th, 2021

From Blue Shield of California

As the pandemic continues, it can be challenging to stay informed across the array of COVID-19 developments and related news. Below, we provide a summary of recent events as well as what we’re seeing on the horizon.

Vaccine mandates for employers

We know the focus for many employers is on vaccine and testing requirements. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency in charge of enforcing the mandate announced by Biden in early September, has not released further guidance. To the best of our knowledge, the vaccine and testing requirements are awaiting review from the Office of Management and Budget – the last step before a federal rule is released. Our COVID-19 resources page has additional information and resources, and we’ll keep our employer groups and broker partners informed of vaccine mandates as they are released.

As a reminder, the federal mandate requiring COVID-19 diagnostic testing to be a covered benefit (at no cost to the member) applies only when the test is provided or ordered by a healthcare provider; testing for employment purposes or general surveillance is not included in this requirement.

Pfizer booster shots approved

In late September, the CDC authorized booster shots for recipients of the Pfizer vaccine. Aimed at protecting frontline workers and those at higher risk due to medical conditions, booster shots will be available to persons who received their second dose at least six months ago and who meet other eligibility rules. Californians who qualify may schedule their “third dose” appointment through the State’s My Turn website. It is not yet known when Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients will be eligible for booster shots.

Pfizer vaccine shown effective in kids aged 5-11

Using data based on antibody response – opposed to infections and hospitalizations – Pfizer announced their vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 5-11 years. A lower dose of the vaccine will be used in this age group (10 mcg vs. 30 mcg for those 12 and older) and an FDA decision on the shot’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the age groups is expected in October.

Relaxed travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers to the U.S

Fully vaccinated air travelers from a list of 33 countries will be allowed entry into the U.S. beginning this November. The list of countries includes China, Brazil, India, and most European countries. Foreign nationals and American citizens returning to the U.S will be required to take a COVID-19 test within three days of their flight, providing proof of the negative result before boarding their flight.