Em­ploy­ers could re­quire COVID-19 vac­cine, but they’ll prob­a­bly just strongly en­cour­age it

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Business - BY MITCHELL SCHNURMAN Dal­las Morn­ing News

Here’s one way to get a lot more peo­ple to take a vac­cine: re­quire it as a con­di­tion of em­ploy­ment.

Pri­vate com­pa­nies can adopt that pol­icy, which could have a big im­pact on the up­take of the new COVID-19 vac­cines now un­der rapid de­vel­op­ment. But such a move would be con­tro­ver­sial.

The risk of a po­ten­tial back­lash can be seen in the vo­cal re­ac­tion against mask man­dates com­ing from some corners. Given the cur­rent pol­i­tics, imag­ine the po­ten­tial op­po­si­tion to re­quir­ing a coro­n­avirus vac­cine in or­der to come to the work­place.

“Em­ploy­ers are not try­ing to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment, but they may be ac­cused of it,” said L.J. Tan, chief strat­egy of­fi­cer at the Im­mu­niza­tion Ac­tion Coali­tion in St. Paul, Minn. “There’s a lot of au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence in the U.S., and that cre­ates con­stant ten­sion with the al­tru­is­tic goal of try­ing to pro­tect your­self and those around you.”

In the health care in­dus­try, it’s fairly com­mon for em­ploy­ers to re­quire vac­cines. The un­der­ly­ing premise is that health providers must take steps to pro­tect their most vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.

Last year, al­most 45% of health care work­ers said their em­ploy­ers re­quired a flu shot, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion. That ag­gres­sive ap­proach paid off with 98% flu cov­er­age among em­ploy­ees at those firms – twice as high as the flu im­mu­niza­tion rate for the gen­eral pub­lic.

Out­side of health care, em­ploy­ers are much more likely to rec­om­mend a vac­cine, rather than re­quire it. A man­date can lead to worker ob­jec­tions over med­i­cal con­di­tions, sin­cerely held re­li­gious be­liefs and dis­abil­i­ties – and their claims are pro­tected.

“In light of these ex­emp­tions and the risk of dis­crim­i­na­tion, the (Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity

Com­mis­sion) has ad­vised that it is best prac­tice to sim­ply en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to take the in­fluenza vac­cine rather than to man­date it,” two lawyers wrote in July in The Na­tional Law Re­view.

“A (COVID) man­date would be an is­sue for many em­ploy­ees,” said LaToya Alexan­der, a lawyer for Polsinelli in Dal­las and co-au­thor of the ar­ti­cle. “Based on my clients, most don’t want to re­quire a vac­cine. We’re hear­ing a lot of, ‘What should we do? What can we do?’”

Em­ploy­ers of­ten go to lengths to in­crease the up­take of an­nual flu shots in or­der to pro­mote a health­ier work­force. Many spon­sor health fairs and bring in nurses to ad­min­is­ter the vac­cines for free. Some of­fer prizes and other in­cen­tives, and the COVID vac­cine cam­paign is likely to have sim­i­lar el­e­ments.

“It’ll be like the flu shot – plus, plus, plus,” said Harry D. Jones, a long­time em­ploy­ment lawyer for Lit­tler Men­del­son in Dal­las. “There will be a lot more pres­sure to get it done be­cause the cost to morale would be so great if com­pa­nies have to exit the work­place again.”

Many peo­ple al­ready com­plain about the fa­tigue from so­cial dis­tanc­ing and wear­ing masks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.