News & Information Blog

Employer Mandated Vaccinations

By Susen Trail | 12/22/2020

Is it Legal to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination for Employees?

Last year, I noticed some Physical Therapists at the facility I used were wearing surgical masks and some were not.  So, of course, I asked.  It turned out that those who were wearing the mask had opted out of taking the influenza vaccine.

In the United States our seasonal flu viruses are caused by influenzas that fall under Type A, which is similar to saying you painted a room blue.  Just as there are thousands of shades of blue, there are many variations of the flu which make selecting the flu that will occur 'later' in order to make and deliver a vaccine 'now' really difficult.  It’s even harder to write a brief explanation of the process, so, if you want to get an idea of the complexity in flu vaccine development before you even enter the lab, check this CDC page.

How well a vaccine works depends on the closeness of the match between the virus and the vaccine, for more information check this CDC page which states the efficacy of vaccines can be as low as 40% to as high as 60% for a good match.  Last year’s flu vaccine was 29%.  As in, only 29% of the people who got the vaccine got that particular flu virus.  To achieve 'Herd Immunity' we need 80% effective prevention in our total population.  For more on this check out an article with the latest information on Vaccines.

With COVID-19 we are greatly improving the odds because we already have the genetic material, messenger Ribonucleic Acid, mRNA.  We are also ahead of the game because the FDA is requiring at least 50% effectiveness of the vaccine.  Meaning, that 50% of the people vaccinated who might get COVID-19 in the studies did not.  This holds up well up against the odds for the flu vaccine required last year by the employer of the Physical Therapists.

Now that we know it’s worth it, we are back to our original question:  

Can an employer mandate all employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19?

The short answer is Yes.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently provided a lengthy guidance, the long answer.

Employees can still request an exemption under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission exemptions for a disability covered by ADA should that disability prevent them from taking the vaccine.  Employees can also be exempt on a religious basis covered under Title VII of the 1964b Civil Rights Act. 

In that case employers are required to provide accommodations to that employee as long as they do not cause the employer undue hardship, significant difficulty or expense.  In the example above, that accommodation was for non-vaccinated employees to wear masks.

There has never been a time where communication with our employees has been more important to their health and to the health of our business.  The healthier we can keep our workforce the healthier our businesses and economy will be.  Just telling someone to do something is never as effective as providing a context, how the mandate fits into the big picture for the employee, your business, and your community.

Vaccines produced by different companies, Pfizer vs BioNTech, can have very different characteristics.   The following information about the vaccine received must provide to your employees:

  1. The lag between administration of the vaccine to average human 95% efficacy in antibody production.  During the lag time the employee can still contract COVID-19
  2. Will vaccinated people be able to shed live virus?
  3. When the booster shot for the vaccine is required?
  4. How long the antibodies generated by the vaccine will last. 
    1. Normal immunity post COVID-19 infection lasts between 4 and 8 weeks, depending on the study.

Simple Safety Coach has a Safety News feature on the Current Issues dashboard where you can provide, and update, information regarding vaccines as it becomes available, % preventive efficiency, and side effects.  This not only prepares your employees for your mandate but shows them the care with which you have selected the vaccine you require them to take.

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