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Can your employer require you to get a coronavirus vaccine shot?

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 6:04 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

As we come closer to getting a vaccine to fight COVID-19 the next big question is, do you plan on getting inoculated?

Right now only 6 out of 10 Americans in a Gallup Poll said they’d get vaccinated. Those against it have a wide variety of concerns from its effectiveness or side effects to distrust of the government and not wanting to be forced to do it.

And in keeping with our country’s political divide, 69 percent of Democrats say they’ll get vaccinated compared to 49 percent of Republicans.

When it comes to mandating vaccines the federal government has limited powers spelled out in the Constitution although it does have some ways to get people to vaccinate, imposing it as a condition of getting a passport, for example.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would “definitely not” support a nationwide mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine and right now there are no plans to do so.

Individual states do have the authority to regulate public health and they have in the past mandated vaccines. All 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, currently have laws requiring specified vaccines for students before they can enter school.

But according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the state has no plans to require anyone to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

But guess who can make it a mandate legally?

The place where you work.

According to Ray Lampert, a Springfield attorney specializing in employment law, businesses do have to tread lightly in this area and be willing to make exceptions but they do have the right to fire you if you don’t follow their health and safety rules.

“Employers are required to make accommodations for employee’s religious beliefs as well as disability,” Lampert explained. “But employers do not have to make accommodations for employees’ social, political or economic beliefs. So if they don’t like it for personal reasons, the employer doesn’t have to continue to employ them.”

However, Lampert points out that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces employee discrimination laws, has discouraged businesses from making vaccines mandatory in the past.

“The EEOC suggests that employers don’t have a blanket policy,” Lampert said. “It’s generally good for an employer to encourage (but not mandate) the employees to have vaccinations.”

But some do. Health workers are the classic example. Hospitals often require some staff to get a flu or hepatitis B vaccine.

Another frequently asked question is if there is more than one vaccine approved, can you choose which one you want?

DHSS Communications Director Lisa Cox replied in an e-mail with the following answer:

“We expect more than one vaccine to be approved and used in Missouri. There may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of 2020, but supply will continually increase in the weeks and months that follow. Whether or not a person has a choice may depend on when they are vaccinated and what the supply is like at that time.”

And then of course, there’s always the question, will the vaccines be safe?

“The process of the FDA and independent data safety monitoring boards looking at a vaccine is really irrespective of the manufacturer or politics,” answered CoxHealth Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Robin Trotman at a recent media briefing in explaining how the approval process works. “It’s an independent group that looks at safety outside of the context of politics and financial gain. So when the vaccines make it to fruition, they’ll be safe.”

All 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, currently have lawsrequiring specified vaccines for students

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