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  • Writer's pictureJoshua C. Black

FDA Approval of Pfizer Vaccine Makes Way for Workplace Mandates

By: Joshua C. Black, Esq.

In the last 6-8 months businesses – both large and small – have weighed the pros and cons of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for workers. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally approved the Pfizer vaccine, changing the way companies may view employee mandates in the workplace.

Many individuals who have resisted immunization cite concerns that COVID-19 vaccines had only received emergency authorization from the FDA and not full approval. These apprehensions about provisional approval prevented many employers from implementing mandates for their workers.

This week’s announcement from the FDA approving the Pfizer vaccine will likely embolden many employers, schools and government agencies to issue vaccine mandates.

What can workers anticipate now that the vaccine is FDA approved?

If a workplace decides to implement vaccine mandates, employees will be required to prove vaccination status in order to keep their jobs. This is not a new practice in many industries. For years teachers and administrators have been required to have certain vaccinations to work in a school. Many medical professionals are also required to have specific immunizations to do their jobs.

FDA approval is unlikely to make any difference regarding medical and religious exemptions to vaccine mandates in the workplace. However, if an employee is unwilling to get vaccinated, and does not have any qualifying exceptions, they could be terminated for refusing the vaccine.

Workers who refuse to comply with workplace COVID-19 vaccination mandates may not qualify for unemployment benefits either. Determining if an individual qualifies for unemployment is based on a number of factors, one of them being why they separated from employment. In this case, an unemployment judge would determine whether a reasonable person in the same or similar position would have refused the vaccine knowing it would cause termination.

How should businesses introduce vaccine mandates in the workplace?

In order to minimize pushback from employees, companies should only mandate the particular vaccine that is fully FDA approved and ensure that particular vaccine is readily available to the workforce.

For many organizations, the FDA approval is a positive step towards acceptance of the vaccine by the general population. In a recent poll of unvaccinated individuals, 3 out of 10 stated they would get the COVID-19 vaccine once approved by the FDA.

Mandatory vaccine protocol is up to individual businesses. Whether they choose to require vaccines for employees or not is a decision that will likely be made on a case-by-case basis in the coming months. If a business is unsure how to implement a vaccine mandate or determine if a mandate is appropriate for their workforce, they should reach out to an employment attorney to discuss their unique situation.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 mandates, or your rights in the workplace, contact the Law Office of Joshua Black, PLC, at (623) 738-2225.

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