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Second phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution being planned

Debate over employers requiring vaccination
Debate over employers requiring vaccination

Police, firefighters, teachers and grocery workers will be next in line for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC advisory panel made the decision today for the second phase of distribution.

Thousands of doses have been distributed across the county trying to fight the COVID-19 vaccine. Frontline healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities got them first.

The CDC Sunday said firefighters, teachers, police and grocery workers will be next, but can these employers force their employees to get the vaccine?

“I think it’s totally reasonable for an employer to ask that. In many contexts, it would be required,” said employment lawyer William J. Sheppard.

Employment lawyers say this question will be asked often.

They say it’s a matter of national security in which some cases will relax restrictions, but it can also depend on the type of employment.

“It’s new to science, it’s new to the law too. So, the law is developing to determine what are the issues,” said Sheppard.

He said the vaccine would also have to be made available to the public before an employer can require employees to get it.

As of Sunday, Florida Department of Health reported 40,037 people across the state got their first dose of the vaccine since it was first distributed a week ago.

It may be late spring-early summer before it’s given out to the public, and that’s when Sheppard said we can expect to see several court cases facing this issue.

“Oh yeah, it will happen, because there are so many people who are anti-vaccine. And there are so many employers that are going to be paternalistic and maternalistic and protective of their other employees,” said Sheppard.

He mentions there will be special cases where people have medical conditions or religious beliefs where accommodations could be made for some employees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated its laws to accommodate vaccines. It says if an employer can’t get the vaccine because of disabilities or religious beliefs, without any reasonable accommodations, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude an employee from the workplace.

It doesn’t mean they can fire the employee, but the employer would need to find other rights that may apply under the EEO laws

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