Should employers mandate that workers get COVID-19 vaccines?
For months, many have posited that it will take a proven and widely available therapy and/or vaccine for life as we once knew it to return. To date, one unproven vaccine that did not go through rigorous phase 3 trials to prove its efficacy has been approved for use in Russia. Forty-two other vaccines are currently being developed or tested for COVID-19 around the world, with four in phase 3, according to Regulatory Focus, a publication of the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.
While many remain hopeful that a properly tested vaccine will prove safe and effective before the end of the year, that is just one hurdle to making it widely available for the population. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offered guidelines for distributing a vaccine as part of a presentation at its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting.
The CDC, understanding that it will take time to produce enough vaccines to immunize the entire population to the point of creating herd immunity, is recommending that essential personnel and vulnerable Americans be the first to receive the vaccines. These would include paid and unpaid healthcare personnel, essential workers in agriculture, education, energy, food, law enforcement and other industries as well as individuals with underlying medical conditions and those 65 and older. The CDC estimates that it will take up to 253 million individual doses to immunize people in these groups.
If and when a vaccine is available, the question then becomes, will Americans feel safe in taking them? Thirty-five percent of those polled said they would not get a COVID-19 vaccine if available, according to a recent Gallup survey. Only 47 percent of individuals who identify as Republicans said they would get a FDA-approved vaccine if available, according to Gallup. Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents plan to get immunized.
A USA Today op-ed written by three researchers from Case Western University this month argued that a COVID-19 vaccine should be free to all and that people should not be able to opt-out of receiving the immunization over religious or personal philosophical objections. Only those with medical contraindications should not receive the vaccine.
To compel compliance, the authors recommend a series of actions that both private and public organizations could take. This includes private companies refusing to hire and employ unvaccinated individuals. Businesses, they write, could also choose not to serve customers that have not been vaccinated.
- COVID-19 vaccine tracker – Regulatory Focus
- COVID-19 vaccine prioritization: Work Group considerations –Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- One in Three Americans Would Not Get COVID-19 Vaccine –Gallup
- Defeat COVID-19 by requiring vaccination for all. It’s not un-American, it’s patriotic. – USA Today
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree or disagree that private employers should be able to deny employment to any individual without a medical waiver who refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available? Should this rule apply to upper management as well as frontline workers in the food retailing and vendor industries?