The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that employers will be allowed to require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine and block them from entering the workplace if they refuse.
The commission explained in newly updated guidance that such a requirement does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which forbids employers from performing medical examinations on employees.
A vaccine does not constitute a medical examination, the EEOC said, because the employer is “not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status.” Employers may also choose to require documentation that an individual received a COVID-19 vaccine, the commission said, because it would not amount to a disability-related inquiry. Additional questioning about an individual’s medical history, however, must be handled with caution.
While the ADA generally shields people from having their employers inquire about their personal health, it does permit employers to ensure that any one employee “shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.”
Employers may therefore prove to be a key influence on whether Americans seek out a coronavirus vaccine, and how quickly.
The Food and Drug Administration has now granted emergency approval for two drugs ― one manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, and the other by Moderna ― which both offer about 95% efficacy. Millions of doses are currently rolling out for nationwide distribution, and thousands of high-risk individuals and frontline workers have already received the first shots.
Polling, however, suggests that a significant portion of American adults are wary of the vaccines. Around 60% have indicated that they would “definitely” or “probably” get the vaccine if it were available to them immediately ― leaving a whopping 40% leaning against it.
Conservatives are generally more likely to be skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines, which is not helped by the fact that some high-profile conservative media figures have spread misinformation about the vaccines, and not provided information about what the medical community does and does not know about the disease and its treatments.
Experts believe it is highly unlikely that either of the mRNA-based vaccines approved so far will cause unexpected widespread side effects. The most common side effects are fatigue, headache and body aches, which dissipate after a day or two.
Moncef Slaoui, the top science advisor for the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, has said that 70% to 80% of the U.S. population will need to get vaccinated in order to put a stop to the crisis, which has already killed more than 310,000 in the country.