Even Among the Vaccinated, Covid-19 Prompted a Surge of Sick Days

The number of workers taking time off because they were sick with Covid-19—or caring for someone else who was—surged at the beginning of the year, topping another leading cause for missing work: caring for children who were out of school because of the pandemic.

A major difference between January 2021’s surge and the one last month is that many of the workers are now vaccinated.

Vaccination status of adults that…

…worked in the last week

…missed work in the last week sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who is

…worked in the last week

…missed work in the last week sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who is

…worked in the last week

…missed work in the last week sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who is

…worked in the last week

…missed work in the last week sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who is

…worked in the last week

…missed work in the last week sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who is

While vaccines were harder to come by early last year, the Omicron variant’s resistance to vaccines helped drive infections among workers, which had been more limited to the unvaccinated for much of 2021.

About 87% of adults who did any work at the beginning of the year were vaccinated, according to the Census survey. About 6.6 million vaccinated workers and 2.1 million unvaccinated ones were out sick at the beginning of the year.

So who were the most likely to get sick and miss work?

Share of adults who worked in early January, by vaccine brand

Share of adults who didn’t work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

Share of adults who worked in early January, by vaccine brand

Share of adults who didn’t work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

Share of adults who worked in early January, by vaccine brand

Share of adults who didn’t work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

Share of adults who worked in early January, by vaccine brand

Share of adults who didn’t work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

Share of adults who worked in early January, by vaccine brand

Share of adults who didn’t work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

About 3% of workers who reported being vaccinated with a two-dose vaccine said they had been out sick or caring for someone who was. By contrast, 5.7% of unvaccinated workers missed work for similar reasons.

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Meanwhile, workers who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine—the smallest group among those vaccinated—were the most likely to have worked outside the home.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only single-dose vaccine approved in the US

Higher-income workers were more likely to have had three or more shots of a Covid vaccine.

The Northeast accounted for some of the highest statewide boosted rates. More than 53% of adults in Vermont reported receiving at least three doses. Washington, DC, has a 40-percentage-point discrepancy in boosted rates between those making less than $50,000 a year and those making more.

Share of adults by state…

…with three or more vaccine doses

…who haven’t been vaccinated

…with three or more vaccine doses

…who haven’t been vaccinated

…with three or more vaccine doses

…who haven’t been vaccinated

…with three or more vaccine doses

…who haven’t been vaccinated

…with three or more vaccine doses

…who haven’t been vaccinated

Conversely more than 1 in 4 in each of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming are unvaccinated—with high-wage earners in each state more likely to be vaccinated than lower-wage workers.

Share of adults who didn’t work because…

…they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

…they were caring for kids who were out of school

…they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

…they were caring for kids who were out of school

…they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

…they were caring for kids who were out of school

…they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

…they were caring for kids who were out of school

…they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19

…they were caring for kids who were out of school

The surge in sick workers hit Maryland, New York and Texas especially hard at the beginning of the year, with more than 1 in 20 workers in each state unable to work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid.

DC and Alabama saw rates below 1% of parents missing work due to Covid school closures. DC had low rates of people out sick with the virus, but workers there were more likely to have missed work for economic reasons, with more than 4 percent of respondents saying they had been laid off or their place of work was closed due to the pandemic .

Write to Danny Dougherty at [email protected]

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