Expect More Testing Demand from Vaccinated Americans Exposed to COVID-19

Pharmacies offering both COVID-19 vaccination and testing are being hit by a double whammy. Not only are more people seeking vaccines because of the fear of the Delta variant as well as the desire for incentives, but, in a reversal of recommendations, the CDC is urging vaccinated Americans to get tested if they are exposed to anyone with the virus or have any symptoms. Here are more details.

ATLANTA – At the same time pharmacies are being deluged with requests for COVID-19 vaccinations because of fears of the Delta variant and incentives to get the shots, they also are facing a significant increase in testing demand.

That’s because of new national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice for fully vaccinated people related to new evidence about the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant currently circulating in the United States.

While the recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission has gotten a lot of press but less publicized is the updated advice on testing.

Public health officials say that fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure. That reverses previous recommendations.

On the other hand, they do not need to be tested before leaving the United States for international travel unless required by the destination or refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.

“Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant,” the CDC explains. “However, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others.”

The new guidance calls for people who are vaccinated to get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms such as:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

They also are urged to be tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.

Isolation is recommended if vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing the symptoms above.

The CDC raises special concerns for some patients who have been immunized but might not be fully protected. “Data suggest immune response to COVID-19 vaccination might be reduced in some immunocompromised people including, but not limited to, people receiving chemotherapy for cancer, people with hematologic cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia, people receiving stem cells or organ transplants, people receiving hemodialysis, and people using certain medications that might blunt the immune response to vaccination (e.g.,  mycophenolate, rituximab, azathioprine, anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies, Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitors),” the agency writes.

Public health officials suggest that pharmacists and other healthcare providers counsel the immunocompromised about the potential for reduced immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines and the need to continue to follow current prevention measures -- including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from othersthey don’t live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces -- to protect themselves against COVID-19 until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

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