The mandate could also trigger a flood of lawsuits.
The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers could set the stage for more private sector organizations to follow. But it is also likely to trigger a flood of lawsuits from those who say the required vaccines violate the civil liberties of Americans.
President Joe Biden is expected to announce a plan Thursday that requires all federal workers to be vaccinated or abide by “strict COVID-19 protocols such as mandatory use of face masks, even in communities that do not have high or substantial spread. and regular tests “.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers can require their employees to be vaccinated with exceptions that are granted for religious and medical reasons.
Federal law does not prohibit organizations from requiring coronavirus vaccines, even though publicly available vaccines have not yet received full clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, according to a Justice Department memo.
But some legal scholars say full FDA approval would give companies greater legal coverage against employees who refuse to comply with a vaccine mandate.
“There are many companies that are concerned about rejection litigation and are awaiting full FDA approval,” said Larry Gostin, professor of global health law at the Georgetown University Law Center and director of the Law Center of Public Health and Human Rights of the World Health Organization. Rights.
Full approval of the vaccine by the FDA is expected in September, according to a federal official. Typically, full approval takes up to one year after submission of all required data.
Gostin added that employers also have the right to fire employees who do not comply with their company’s vaccine mandate.
“A worker does not have the legal or ethical right not to be vaccinated or unmasked in a crowded workplace,” he said. “They can make decisions for their own health and well-being, but they cannot pose a risk to others. Someone who is not vaccinated and has not been tested and unmasked poses a very substantial risk of transmitting a very dangerous, if not fatal disease. “
Like the legal arguments over state mask mandates, the debate around vaccine mandates is an issue that is expected to end in court.
“America is a very litigious society and there will be lawsuits,” Gostin said. “But employers and hospitals in particular have a very strong legal foundation and they will win those lawsuits.”
While the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for federal workers could inspire similar moves from big employers to local governments, some states are taking offensive action.
Several states, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Utah and Montana, have already passed legislation banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, according to the state’s National Academy of Health Policy.
And with back to school fast approaching for millions of American students, some legislatures have even tried to ban the COVID-19 vaccines required for school attendance.
However, the Federal Association of Law Enforcement Officers, which is made up of FBI agents and U.S. Marshalls, views the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for federal employees as an attack on civil liberties.
“Forcing people to undergo a medical procedure is not the American way and is a clear violation of civil rights no matter how proponents may try to justify it,” said Larry Cosme, president of the association, in a statement.
The idea of employer vaccination mandates is something that many public health experts increasingly agree on. A large number of companies still allow employees to return to the office based entirely on voluntary disclosure of vaccination status by employees, rather than requiring actual proof of vaccination.
“An honor system can work in a situation where there is no epidemic,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. “We have to realize that we are in an emergency and we have to do everything we can to ensure that the vast majority of people are vaccinated.”
Google, Apple, and Facebook postponed their return-to-office plans to mid-October as the delta variant continues to drive a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country.
Google’s decision to require its office staff to be vaccinated follows similar announcements targeting government workers in New York and California to slow the spread of the delta variant.
“The timing for these vaccine mandates is right and it’s actually a bit late,” El-Sadr said.