Who can get you vaccinated against Covid?
Millions of Americans have chosen not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. But with vaccines readily available and cases of the virus resurfacing in parts of the country, a growing number of employers, universities and businesses are now imposing some form of vaccine requirement.
Under many of these orders, those who are not vaccinated, including people who cannot be vaccinated due to a disability or conflicting religious beliefs, will instead have to follow strict guidelines like regular Covid testing. , masking and social distancing.
“I think what these companies – for these people – probably thinking, demanding that they be masked or constantly tested, is a reasonable accommodation,” said Joel Friedman, professor of law at Tulane University. “And that’s probably correct.”
Another element of the changing vaccine landscape is their awaited full approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines are currently being administered under emergency use authorization, so full approval could alleviate concerns about their safety – and encourage even more organizations to make it a requirement.
Here is an overview of who might ask you to get the vaccine:
Can your employer require you to be vaccinated?
The short answer is yes, although the vast majority haven’t.
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, any business has the legal right to require its employees to be vaccinated, except in cases of disabilities or conflicting religious beliefs.
Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, is demanding that a good chunk of its employees – about 1.6 million, including those at its head office – receive a vaccine.
The Walt Disney Company, Google, Facebook, Tyson Foods, and Uber are some of the other big companies requiring at least some of their employees to be vaccinated.
State governments and the Biden administration have also issued vaccination warrants in their capacity as employers, but not in a way that affects the general public.
Up to seven million federal workers are now required to show proof of vaccination, under new guidelines announced by President Biden in late July. If they don’t, they’ll have to follow strict rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, and social distancing. The military has said it will follow suit with its employees.
States like North Carolina, New York, and California also require their employees to do the same. And mandatory vaccination prescriptions are also appearing for workers in public hospital systems across the country. This includes most hospitals in Massachusetts, some in South Carolina, and some in North Carolina.
And these requirements do not violate HIPAA law either – although the law protects a patient’s confidential health information, including what their health care provider may share with others, it does not cover. what employers can ask for.
What about your college or university?
Yes. And they might have already done so if you attend one of the more than 500 colleges and universities – including the university system in states like California, Illinois, Colorado, and New York – that make the vaccine. an enrollment requirement if students want to take in-person classes this coming semester.
While some campuses require students to provide proof of vaccination, others urge students to be exempt from the requirement to wear a mask.
But that doesn’t mean everyone is happy. A federal judge upheld Indiana University’s vaccine requirement last month after a group of students filed a lawsuit. The mandate is also a challenge for international students who may not have access to one of the eight vaccines approved by the WHO.
What about kids in K-12 schools?
It may depend on whether the child is in a public or private school. Although children between the ages of 12 and 17 are now eligible for the vaccine and younger ones are likely to become so this fall, attending a K-12 public school is not mandatory anywhere. the country.
Private schools, as well as daycares and camps, can decide whether or not to require their students to be vaccinated.
Most children already receive routine vaccines against other diseases, such as tetanus, polio and chickenpox, to meet school requirements. So, a state-level requirement for a Covid vaccine in the future is a possibility.
Could your local or state government require you to be vaccinated? What about the federal government?
Local and state governments may require vaccination because of a legal precedent set by the 1905 Supreme Court decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which allows states to require their residents to be vaccinated against smallpox.
New York City will begin requiring proof of vaccination for meals inside restaurants, entry to fitness centers and participation in other indoor activities this month.
At the same time, some states, like Florida, are using their authority to impose otherwise and have banned agencies and businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
Understanding the State of Vaccination Mandates in the United States
And as for the federal government, that’s a no. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky confirmed in July that there would be no nationwide mandate.
What if you wanted to travel abroad?
It depends. While some countries remain closed to Americans, those welcoming travelers require either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. As long as you can provide the latter, vaccination is usually not required.
What about other businesses where you are just a customer?
It depends on where you live.
A handful of restaurants in major cities like Philadelphia and Los Angeles now require customers to show proof of vaccination. A few restaurants and bars in Kansas City also do the same. Only some of these locations will allow customers to present a recent negative Covid test instead.
Similar policies are appearing in gyms. Equinox and SoulCycle will require their customers and staff in New York City to provide proof of vaccination next month before expanding the same requirements to other locations.
How do religious exemptions work?
While employers have a legal responsibility to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, and universities may allow religious, and even philosophical, exemptions for vaccines, restaurants and other businesses do not have the same duty to clients, according to Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
What exactly constitutes a religious belief is subject to interpretation, she said, from the teachings of major organized religions to less traditional religious beliefs.
One religious argument people have made against vaccines, according to Ms. Sepper, is that they undermine their faith in God’s ability to protect their bodies from harm. Others oppose vaccines that were developed or tested using cells derived from fetal tissue from elective abortions that took place decades ago.
But employers are also protected from the burden – they only have to provide a realistic alternative to the employee, usually in the form of frequent testing, mask warrants, or social distancing.
“The obligation to the employer is to be reasonable,” Ms. Sepper said. “Don’t look back and let an employee do what they want. “
And the number of people who could successfully apply for a religious exemption from a vaccination warrant is likely small.
“If we saw religious exemptions in large numbers, I would doubt their sincerity,” Ms. Sepper said. “Because there is no major religion that opposes vaccination.”
Will more organizations need a vaccine in the future?
It is probable. Friedman, who predicts that more companies will need vaccinations in the future, maintains that the legal precedent for making vaccines mandatory already exists, it is simply up to these entities to decide to act on it.
“It is not a legal decision,” he said. “These companies are making a political and economic judgment.