Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination In Employment
In recent weeks, the prospect of an approved, widely available COVID-19 vaccine has become much more tangible as several pharmaceutical companies have presented promising preliminary data regarding the effectiveness of their vaccine trials. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received two applications for emergency use authorization within the last month with meetings scheduled to begin this week. On December 2, 2020, Britain authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the first western nation to do so.1 In light of these developments, the CDC has indicated the possibility of one or more COVID-19 vaccines becoming available for public use before the end of 2020.2
While the vaccine will not be available generally for citizens until 2021, employers are beginning the planning process as to what the vaccine’s availability will mean for them. With challenges for employers in maintaining an employee comfort level of safety at work and the continuing efforts to return employees to employment, the question has arisen “Can I require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment?” At present, no law, regulation, or other guidance directly addresses whether employers may require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination. However, the concept of mandatory vaccination programs in employment is not an entirely novel issue. Many healthcare workers are currently required to receive certain vaccinations as a condition of their employment, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and OSHA have addressed the issue of mandatory flu vaccination policies in the past.
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