Pfizer Study Shows COVID-19 Vaccination Reduces Symptoms, Improves Work Productivity


Vaccinated study participants experienced fewer and less persistent symptoms, as well as fewer work hours lost, compared to unvaccinated participants.

In the United States, there is currently no federal law guaranteeing workers paid days off, and many are not entitled to unpaid time off.

According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 78% of workers have access to paid sick time.1 This means that close to 1 in 4 workers may experience financial hardship when illness strikes.

COVID-19 can have significant effects on individuals’ wellbeing, causing a decline in their health-related quality of life. The infection symptoms, such as fever, cough, and fatigue often thwart productivity, making it harder to work and get daily tasks done.

COVID-19 vaccination, particularly the bivalent BNT162b2 formulation, has been shown to have “very high efficacy against severe disease and moderate efficacy against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection,” according to the World Health Organization.2

A study published in October and led by Manuela Di Fusco, senior director of Health Economics and Outcomes Research at Pfizer, analyzed the effects of Pfizer’s BA.4/5 BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine on symptoms, Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL), and work productivity.3

The study enrolled 643 participants including 316 individuals who had been vaccinated and 327 who were unvaccinated. The unvaccinated cohort included individuals that never received any COVID-19 vaccine and those who were not up-to-date (if their last dose was over 12 months ago). The average age of the participants was 46.5 years old, with 25.7% having one or more comorbid condition. This study gathered patient-reported outcomes from individuals who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 at CVS Health test sites, targeting adults with a positive test result and at least one acute COVID-19 symptom.

The study utilized online surveys to collect baseline information on participants, including demographics, comorbidities, COVID-19 vaccination and infection history. Participants also provided information on COVID-19 antiviral treatment and changes in vaccination and infection status. The study measured outcomes such as symptoms, HRQoL, fatigue, work productivity, and activity impairment using validated measures at different time points over a four-week period.

The findings of the study revealed that the vaccinated group reported fewer acute symptoms, particularly systemic and respiratory symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19. Further, while all participants experienced some adverse effects on their overall HRQoL, the vaccinated group demonstrated a better work performance compared to the unvaccinated group. This was evidenced by lower rates of absenteeism and fewer work hours lost among those who had received the vaccine.

The researchers concluded that the vaccinated group experienced fewer and less persistent symptoms than the unvaccinated group. Moreover, their improved work performance highlights the positive impact of COVID-19 vaccination on individuals' ability to carry out their daily responsibilities effectively.

This study, funded by Pfizer, adds to the body of evidence supporting the role of COVID-19 vaccination in reducing the severity and frequency of symptoms experienced by those who receive it. Regarding their study on patient-reported outcomes, the authors wrote, “…it solidifies evidence indicating that the effectiveness of BA.4/5 BNT162b2 on COVID-19 disease could translate to extra benefits of reduction in the frequency and burden of symptoms, supporting faster recovery and return to work.”

This article originally appeared in Managed Healthcare Executive.

1. Paid sick leave benefits factsheet. Factsheet. Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 12, 2021. Accessed November 27, 2023.
2. The Pfizer BioNTech (BNT162b2) COVID-19 vaccine: what you need to know. Article. World Health Organization. August 18, 2022. Accessed November 27, 2023.
3. Di Fusco M, Sun X, Anatale-Tardiff L, et al. Impact of bivalent BA.4/5 BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine on acute symptoms, quality of life, work productivity and activity levels among symptomatic US adults testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 at a national retail pharmacy. Vaccines. 2023; 11(11):1669.
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