Employers generally have the right to require vaccinations, but experts warn mandates could backfire.
While the vaccine will only be available to the majority of Americans by summer 2021 at the earliest, the coming months may see serious debate over whether businesses, including hospitals and long-term care facilities, should mandate the vaccine for their employees to ensure things can go back to normal as quickly as possible.
Vaccine mandates in the US are not unheard of. Hospitals have long mandated the flu vaccine for their employees as healthcare workers can transmit the flu virus to high-risk patients even if they do not show symptoms. Fifteen states have laws that require healthcare workers to be vaccinated in certain circumstances with the goal of keeping high-risk patients safe, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. All states have mandated vaccines for children against diseases such as polio and measles in order for them to enroll in school as a way to achieve herd immunity for those diseases.
What complicates a Covid-19 vaccine requirement is that the vaccine has been approved for emergency use, which means the vaccine is still considered experimental. Things will be different when and if the vaccines get full regulatory approval – Pfizer announced that it will apply for full approval in April 2021 – but the timeline for when the immunizations will be fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unclear. For now, the rights of employers to mandate a Covid-19 vaccine will be in a legal gray area for the indefinite future.
Ms. Jenn Landers | Patient Advocate Alliance LLC Edited by Dr. Justin Groode