Important COVID-19 & Vaccine Resources for Local 338 Members
Local 338 essential workers have jobs that require you to work closely with the public, so it’s important you have all of the information on how to continue to stay safe.
The best way to avoid contracting COVID is by getting vaccinated with one of the three proven effective vaccines. If you have questions concerning vaccine safety and effectiveness, we urge you to read the updated info-sheet or check out the NYS Vaccine FAQ Resource
Most vaccination sites are walk-in accessible, however if you’d like to make an appointment yourself, you can visit:
• New York State:
- Through Northwell Health: https://www.northwell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/vaccine?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=covid_vaccine_2021&utm_content=covid_vaccine_ny&utm_term=covid__&gclid=CjwKCAjwtJ2FBhAuEiwAIKu19o0JnLJJl-m9CKsl6XnzTY6DItdathc_SVeTzHdD_FmNtIsAH_DjRBoCYhgQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
• New York City: vax4nyc.nyc.gov/patient/s/
• New Jersey: covid19.nj.gov/pages/finder
The CDC now recommends that people receive booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 5 months after their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. If you received Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, they recommend getting it 2 months after your shot. A booster shot will help increase your immunity against COVID-19 and its variants and help reduce your chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.
According to the CDC, getting a booster of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is recommended and your booster shot can be from either vaccine manufacturer regardless of which one you received for your first COVID-19 vaccine—meaning it’s safe to get a Moderna booster shot if your original vaccine was Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson (or vice versa).
People who are 18 or over can get a booster shot of either Pfizer or Moderna. However, only those between the ages of 12 and 17 can get a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Dr. Robert Wulwick, MD discusses the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. To register for a vaccination appointment, please click here: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov
FAQs About Covid-19 Vaccines
Below are evidence-based answers to common questions about the vaccine (derived from various sources, including Mt. Sinai, and various other highly respected medical and scientific organizations.)
Weren't the vaccines created too quickly to be safe?
NO! As one Mt. Sinai expert stated, the development of the vaccine itself was not all that fast - it took about the same time as it takes to develop the flu vaccine every year. What was faster than normal was the testing period. But one major reason testing was able to be completed so much faster was because of the prevalence of the disease itself— it became abundantly clear in no time at all how effective the vaccines were as those vaccinated did not contract the disease and those receiving the saline solution did... Plus, because of the pandemic, the federal government poured tons of money into the research.
Are the vaccines even effective?
YES! These vaccines are incredibly effective. Studies that look at vaccine performance in the real-world have validated the clinical trial results, and provide further evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19 and from getting seriously ill even if you do contract the virus. In fact, based on currently available data, it's expected the risk of getting struck by lightning is similar to the risk level of a fully vaccinated person dying from COVID-19 (CDC).
Will getting vaccinated be expensive for me?
NO! The COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone, whether or not you have insurance.
Will the side effects be worse than getting COVID-19?
NO! Getting vaccinated is a much safer way to build protection than getting the disease. COVID-19 can have serious, long-term or life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you.
It is common to have certain side effects after a vaccination, including pain or redness at the injection side, headache, fever, chills, tiredness, muscle pain and joint pain. These side effects rarely interfere with daily activities, and often go away with over-the-counter pain medications. Side effects mean your immune system is working and making antibodies as it's supposed to.
I already had COVID-19. Why should I get vaccinated if I'm already protected?
If you've recovered from COVID-19, it's still important to get vaccinated. While most people have some degree of natural protection after recovery, the research has shown that that protection does begin to fade over time and that the immune response from the vaccine is more complete and longer lasting. There is also emerging evidence indicating that people with natural immunity may be susceptible to reinfection from new variants, whereas vaccine-induced antibodies are more potent against these strains.
Will taking the vaccine give me COVID-19?
NO! The vaccines do not contain live coronavirus, and you cannot and will not get COVID-19 from getting vaccinated.
Can the mRNA vaccines modify my DNA?
NO! COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of protein called the "spike protein." Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn't belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19. The vaccines do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the nucleus of our cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept, and the cell gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions. mRNA Vaccines Are New, But Not Unknown. Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. Interest has grown in these vaccines because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials. This means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.
Can the mRNA vaccines cause fertility issues?
NO! According to the CDC, "there is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, impact fertility." The CDC does not even recommend routine pregnancy testing before COVID-19 vaccination and you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine (CDC). In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends "vaccination for all eligible people who may consider future pregnancy" and notes that "unfounded claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility have been scientifically disproven" (ACOG). Because pregnant individuals are at higher risk for severe disease than nonpregnant ones, vaccination for COVID-19 can also help promote a healthy pregnancy by protecting pregnant people.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine have any effect on my pregnancy?
NO! But we have found that pregnant women who get COVID-19 tend to become very ill. That's why we recommend taking the vaccine. As of now, three billion COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered, half of them to women, and there have been no reports of them affecting a woman's pregnancy. In fact, we have found that the vaccine not only protects the pregnant woman, but the fetus gets some immunity as well. We hypothesize that the vaccine prevents severe illness in these babies.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect my sperm count?
NO! None of the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States affect sperm count or the sperm's ability to move toward an egg (motility). Contracting a severe case of COVID-19 can lower sperm count for a time. But studies show that the vaccine itself does not affect sperm.
I got the vaccine, why should I get a booster shot?
The COVID-19 vaccines are already extremely effective in reducing the likelihood of hospitalization or death. However, it is normal for a vaccine’s protection to wane over time—getting your booster shot will help strengthen the vaccine and prolong its durability. Getting your booster shot will not only protect you, but it will protect those around you as well!
Getting Tested for COVID
Getting tested for COVID-19 is easier than ever before. If you live in NYC, you can find a testing site by texting “COVID TEST” to 855-48 or by visiting nyc.gov/covidtest. If you live anywhere else in New York State, please call the COVID-19 hotline at 888-364-3065 or visit: covid19screening.health.ny.gov. You can also call your union representative to help schedule a COVID testing appointment.
If you live or work in New Jersey, you can access information about testing by visiting: covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing
As of January 15, 2022, Americans can now order one free at-home test kit from the federal government. There is a limit of one test kit per household, and each kit contains four at-home tests. To request your test kit, please visit: covidtests.gov. Filling out the request form is incredibly simple and the tests will be delivered to your home via USPS in a matter of weeks.
For members of the Local 338 Health & Welfare fund, in accordance with federal mandates, FDA-approved at-home COVID-19 test kits will be covered for all Local 338 Health & Welfare eligible participants and their dependents. Navitus, our Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), will now cover up to 8 FDA-approved COVID test kits per month. No prescription is needed and you must present your Navitus prescription insurance card at the time of purchase. If you purchase tests and wish to be reimbursed, you must fill out the Direct Member Reimbursement form and provide all required documentation to Navitus. For a full overview of limitations, guidelines, and to view the reimbursement form, please log into your My Local 338 account.
Accessing Paid Time Off Related to COVID
If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or if you’re not feeling well, stay home and speak to your doctor. Your union contract includes paid time off (PTO), so we encourage you to use them if you’re ill or feeling under the weather (please continue to follow your employer’s policies around taking your paid time off).
* Please note that under New York State law, workers can now access up to 4 hours of PTO to get vaccinated.
Support for Your Mental & Physical Health
Working as an essential and frontline worker presents unique challenges. We urge our members to reach out to our Member Assistance Program (MAP) if you’d like to speak about anything on your mind or to help navigate the mental health resources available to you. Click here to learn more: http://local338.org/already-a-member/local338-member-resources/map or call 516-294-1338. Members can also call the New York State Department of Mental Health's Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314.
If you are feeling under the weather, please take advantage of your free health benefits like Teledoc and our Guardian Nurses program. For Members of Local 338 who are enrolled in the Health & Welfare Fund, Teladoc gives you access to quality physicians in the palm of your hands—you can speak with an ER or urgent care doctor through your smartphone, tablet or computer. They’re available to you 24 hours a day, almost immediately, and at no cost or co-pay to you. To access the service, you can call 800-Teladoc (835-2362) or:
1- Download the Teladoc app in the app store on your phone or visit Teladoc.com (You will be required to complete a brief medical history)
2- When you need to see a doctor for a consultation, log into your account and click “Request a Consult.”
Guardian Nurses is a free service which will provide support and coordinate care for you, such as, locating testing/vaccine sites for COVID-19. We have two Guardian Nurses available to assist you: Andrea can be reached at 484-684-0039 and Michelle is available at 718-354-6605.
Navigating Workers Compensation if You Contract COVID-19 at Work
If you become symptomatic or contract and test positive for COVID-19 at work, we encourage you to submit a workers’ compensation claim. Please notify both your employer (within 30 days) and your Union Representative if you test positive or presumed to be positive. We also recommend that you speak to a Workers Compensation attorney at Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada who can help you navigate through the process. They can be reached at: 800-416-5454 or 516-496-0400.
In addition, New York State will be offering online webinars for essential workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 due to an exposure at work, especially workers who are now suffering from Long COVID. The webinars will be offered through the New York State Workers Compensation Board and will help workers determine if they are eligible to apply for workers compensation and tips on how to apply. For more information, please visit: http://www.wcb.ny.gov/webinars/#covid-19