Can My Employer Force Me To Take the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Vaccines for COVID-19 are here. Are you ready to take the shot, or would you rather wait on the sidelines for awhile?

Did you get your COVID-19 vaccine yet? That question is and has been one of the most asked lately as millions of Americans have been rolling up their sleeves to receive the super fast-tracked medicine. And while we all are hopeful and ready to get back to some sense of normalcy, a vaccine doesn’t necessarily guarantee that unfortunately. Some folks are naturally apprehensive about vaccines in general, especially ones that became available to the public in a fraction of the time compared to the normal vetting process – like 8 months vs. 8 years!

To speed up the process in this case, FDA granted what is called an Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna due to the dire situation created by the pandemic. The mechanism implemented by FDA has helped get the medicine into our bloodstreams quicker. That particular designation, however, also technically dissuades employers and/or other organizations from requiring that you take the vaccine in order to work or participate. Why? Plain and simple, FDA, doctors and other researchers are still learning about these particular chemistries and how they will affect people in the short and long-term. Variants of the virus continue to pop up as well, and questions about efficacy against those persist.

Ultimate licensing and approval of these vaccines might not be achieved for several years. That’s how long it will take for copious data collection. So, for now, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is supposed to be voluntary, at least according to federal law.

This could be confusing as employers and other organizations have established and continue to tweak existing COVID-19 policies for safety and to maintain a handle on direct health threats. Now with the vaccines becoming available, companies and even a number of prominent universities have gone ahead to add inoculation mandates to their guidelines, even if it stands in opposition of what an Emergency Use Authorization entails. Many are citing state laws that can offer protection against potential litigation.

Being fully vaccinated makes sense for certain lines of work like first responders, physicians, educators, pilots, etc. But it’s far from a one-size-fits all situation. Any potential alleged violation of worker rights and/or labor laws would still have to be decided in a court of law.

So you might be feeling under pressure from your employer to get the vaccine, even if  you are hesitant and they don’t come right out and say it. But even once the medicines are licensed, exemptions for religious beliefs and existing medical conditions are protected and can still be considered via provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Yes, the pandemic is not over yet, and it still feels like we’re stuck starring in a sci-fi novel. But laws are in place to provide order, even in a chaotic world.

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