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Workers Compensation Issues

COVID Claims Development: Workers Compensation and Long-Term Effects

Kimberly George , Mark Walls | March 19, 2021

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This article is part two of our series regarding COVID-19 claims and provides more detail on the long-term medical effects associated with these claims. For further information on data trends in COVID-19 claims, please refer to part one of this series. 1

The latest Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark webinar brought together a panel of industry experts to explore current trends being seen in COVID-19 claims as well as long-term medical complications and what risk managers should be monitoring in the future. Please see the first part, "COVID Claims Development: Workers Compensation and Beyond."

Our guests were the following.

  1. Teresa Bartlett, MD—senior medical officer at Sedgwick
  2. Max Koonce—chief claims officer at Sedgwick
  3. Tim Stanger—vice president of partner relations at Safety National
  4. Alex Swedlow—president of California Workers' Compensation Institute

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

There may not be a crystal ball to determine the impact COVID-19 has on a patient years from now, but current trends in symptoms can provide a better picture. These trends in long-term side effects range from fatigue and brain fog to more severe symptoms like blood clots and pneumonia.

One study performed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) followed over 4,000 people that tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States. Their findings cited that 50 percent of those people were unable to work full-time 6 months after recovering. With only 8 percent hospitalized, most cases were mild but resulted in long-term side effects regardless. In another study, over 80 percent of the COVID-19 patients followed developed at least one long-term side effect.

COVID-19 Variants

There have been over seven unique variants of COVID-19 found in the United States alone in the past week. While this is common in viruses, much like with the flu, there is a difference in these mutations. However, understanding the difference between shift and drift is important.

The United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil variants are drifts, meaning the virus's protein structure has warped, but the testing still recognizes this variant, and the vaccine is applicable to these strains. However, this variant is still more contagious, and there is uncertainty regarding how long the vaccine will work on these.

The medical community is watching closely for a shift in the virus. When a shift occurs, testing will not recognize the virus, and the vaccine will likely not work.

Vaccine Developments

Two vaccines are currently being administered to the public, one through Moderna and the other through Pfizer. Both options are taken in two doses, with Pfizer's doses administered 21 days apart and Moderna's administered 28 days apart. Pfizer's option allows for anyone age 16 and above to receive the vaccine, while Moderna's is a higher dosage and allows for anyone age 18 and above to receive it. Only those with an allergy to polyethylene glycol or those that have experienced a severe reaction to vaccines in the past are advised against receiving either vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson's viral vector vaccine will be released soon but varies considerably compared to the mRNA vaccines currently being administered by Pfizer and Moderna. Like the flu vaccine, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine uses the cells in a body to target the virus's spike protein, triggering an immune response. Their option is only one dose but is currently only citing 66 percent efficacy. However, since Moderna and Pfizer's trials ended before the variants were spreading, all three may have similar efficacy.

Vaccine Myths

There are plenty of myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, but one of the common myths states that it could alter your DNA. Both vaccines are referred to as messenger RNA vaccines, which cannot alter your genetic makeup. The vaccine instead penetrates the virus's genetic code and provides a map to break up the virus and kill it.

Another common myth is regarding sterility in those of child-bearing age. The vaccine contains syncytin-1, a spike protein also found in the body used to grow and attach a placenta during pregnancy. However, these two spike proteins are completely different. The syncytin-1 used in the vaccine is only used to penetrate the virus and does not live on inside the body and, therefore, cannot affect pregnancy.

There is also a general fear surrounding the potential side effects of the vaccine. While side effects are possible, most are mild and short-lived, occurring for 1-3 days after the vaccine is administered. These side effects are inconsequential compared to the potential impacts of the virus itself.

To listen to the archive of our complete "COVID Claims Development: Workers' Compensation & Beyond" webinar and view a full list of FAQs from this session, please visit

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1 Follow @outfrontideas on Twitter and Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark on LinkedIn for more information about upcoming events and webinars.