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It is December 17, 2020, and this week was the beginning of vaccine distribution in the United States.

Many people are asking, “Can the government or my employer require me to get the Covid-19 Vaccine?

The simple answer is YES, but the likelihood of that happening is going to depend on a lot of factors, and it is not likely that the FEDERAL government would issue such a mandate.

Historically, states have had the right to mandate vaccines in order to ensure safety of the public. However, experts believe that it is very unlikely it will happen.

What is more likely is that employers and states will condition return or access to workplaces, public schools and universities upon getting the vaccine. Currently, all 50 states and Washington DC have laws requiring certain vaccines for students, but there are exceptions for personal, moral or other beliefs.

The industries most likely to mandate vaccines are going to be those most at risk for contracting the disease, such as those who work in HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, PUBLIC SAFETY. Another important factor will be: AVAILABILITY OF VACCINE.

Currently, the available Coronavirus vaccines have been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. By the time the vaccines receive full FDA approval, which could take months. A lot will depend on how widespread the current vaccine has been distributed.

It is not clear if employers could legally mandate a vaccine that is only approved for Emergency Use. However, it would be very unusual to mandate a vaccine that has not been fully licensed and approved by the FDA. Right now, the consensus seems to be to encourage as many people as possible to voluntarily receive the vaccine. Assuming large numbers of people get vaccinated, there is a much less likely chance that there will be mandates by states or employers.

On the other hand, once the vaccine is approved by the FDA, if the number of people vaccinated is still too low to be effective, AND there is an available supply of the vaccine, we should probably expect to see some mandates.

As with any vaccine, there will be exceptions to those mandates; for example: pregnant women, people with disabilities, or those who hold deeply-rooted religious convictions.

So, what does that mean for you? To be vaccinated is a personal decision for each of us. I can tell you that I will be volunteering to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, and I look forward to putting an end to this deadly disease.

If you have questions about the vaccine as it relates to your employment, please feel free to contact me, Chip Clark, for a free consultation.

Also see, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”