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Your job can get you a COVID-19 vaccine. What we know so far



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Local governments have mandated vaccinations during past pandemics, and the Supreme Court has upheld their right to do so.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Visit the WHO website for the most current news and information about the coronavirus pandemic.

As the US campaigns to spread corona vaccines continues to increase, more than 8 million doses have been administered in the US since January 11. For now, though only very specific groups of people – mostly health professionals – are approved to have a Covid-19 vaccine. Some of those medical professionals may be asked by their employer to get vaccinated, which leads to the question, Can your employer get you a COVID-19 vaccine?

The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. In general, employers can require employees to receive a vaccine during a pregnancy pandemic to better ensure the health and safety of their general personnel. However, there are a few exceptions that could exempt you from receiving a vaccine if your employer mandates it.

Here we look at what gives employers the right to require their employees to get it vaccinated against the corona virus, and what laws are in place to protect you if you have a valid reason not to want to be vaccinated yourself. This article is intended as a general overview and not as a source of legal or medical advice.

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While your employer may legally require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine, most jobs in the US have not made it mandatory so far.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The US government says employers can demand vaccines

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. employers may require workers to receive vaccinations against diseases recognized as pandemics, such as COVID-19. The agency’s guidelines date back to the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 (also known as “swine flu”), but were updated in March 2020 to specifically address the coronavirus pandemic. As in 2009, there are two important exceptions to this rule; keep reading for an explanation of both.

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects some people from mandatory vaccination

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with medical conditions that would make them unable to take a vaccine. For example, the FDA has recommended people with certain allergies do not receive a vaccine against the coronavirus, but there can be other reasons too, such as a compromised immune system.

Civil Rights Act also protects people with religious beliefs who are against vaccines

Even if you do not have a medical reason not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, you may be able to object on other grounds – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people who refuse to take a mandatory vaccine because of genuine religious beliefs. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not require membership of a church or even a belief in God to support religious objections: Strong or genuine moral or ethical beliefs are also governed by the law.

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has indicated that employers may require vaccines to protect the health and safety of their employees.

Sarah Tew / CNET

What happens if you object to receiving a vaccine when your employer requires it?

Just because you have a valid medical or theological objection to receiving a coronavirus vaccine doesn’t mean your employer should have you work under the same conditions you are used to. All of the above objections require employers to make “reasonable accommodations” if an employee objects to receiving a vaccine. Such adjustments may mean that the employee can work remotely or take time off.

A 1905 Supreme Court case allows employers to demand vaccines

In 1901, a deadly smallpox outbreak in New England forced local governments to order mandatory vaccinations for everyone in the area. However, some residents objected, and one went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that the government may impose “reasonable rules,” such as a vaccine requirement during a pandemic, in order to protect the “safety of the general public.”

This lawsuit forms the basis for the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which clarify that employers can make similar demands on their employees.

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Rather than having employees vaccinated, some workplaces are preparing to make it easier for employees to access it when their priority group is called.

Sarah Tew / CNET

How likely is it that your employer will need a COVID-19 vaccine?

The industry most likely to require workers to be immunized against the coronavirus is the same industry currently approved to receive it: healthcare. Other industries where employees are in a particularly high-risk group for contracting or distributing COVID-19, such as retail or meat processing, are more likely to require employers to require vaccines for their employees.

That said, instead of requiring coronavirus vaccinations, many companies are focusing on making it easier for employees to get vaccinated. The two largest car manufacturers in the US, for example Ford and General Motors, have decided not to have their employees vaccinated. Instead, Ford has ordered a dozen of its own freezers to store the vaccine when doses become available to its employees.

Here are a few other reasons why someone may not get a coronavirus vaccine right awayalthough perhaps the most important thing holding you back now is where you fall on the CDC’s list of priority groups. Not to mention that there are currently two different vaccines, with more on the way, and which type you get may depend on both who you are and where you are.


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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.


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