Welcome to the WBD News Flash, your weekly highlight of HR benefits and healthcare news. Weekly, we will provide you with the top trending industry news stories in healthcare, human resources, legislation, benefits technology and administration, and more. Make the WBD News Flash your go to reference for current events!

CDC Defends Abrupt Shift on Mask Guidance

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky went on Sunday morning news shows to defend the agency’s decision to drop mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people. The new guidelines caught many by surprise, advising that fully vaccinated individuals can give up masks when outdoors and in most indoor settings. The guidelines also allow the fully vaccinated to give up social distancing. More than 47% of Americans have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Walensky stated that the guidelines are based on the latest science, and defended the shift, which came just days after some Republican senators called the mask requirements “unworkable.” Walensky said, “I can tell you it certainly would have been easier if the science had evolved a week earlier and I didn’t have to go to Congress making those statements. But I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals.”

Approval of Pfizer Covid Vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds

The widely-used Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is now FDA-approved for use in children as young as twelve, greatly expanding the reach of the Covid vaccine in the United States. The news comes as the rate of infection amongst children is rising. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported nearly a quarter of new weekly Covid cases were now in children and teens as of May 6.

While children are not as likely to develop a severe illness from coronavirus infection, they can pose a risk to people around them, especially if they are asymptomatic. The FDA emergency authorization and CDC recommendation of the vaccine follows studies which found similar side effects to older groups, and an even stronger immune response than what was found in teens and young adults. The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing Covid-19.

New Survey Shows Boost in Voluntary Benefits Interest

A new report from Willis Towers Watson finds that more employers will be offering voluntary benefits. 94% of employers expect that these employee-funded benefits will be key to their organization over the next three years. The data in 2018 showed just 36% of employers held the same outlook on voluntary benefits. Senior director of Voluntary Benefits Solutions, Lydia Jilek stated, “The pandemic has given rise to an increase in benefits that protect employees against big hospital bills and loss of income, and provide personal protection.”

The fastest growing benefits include identity theft, hospital indemnity, pet insurance, critical illness, and group legal. Read more here.