Millions of Americans have chosen not to get a coronavirus vaccine. But with the shots readily available and virus cases ticking back up in parts of the country, a growing number of employers, universities and businesses are now issuing some form of a vaccine requirement.
Under many of these orders, those who remain unvaccinated, including people who can’t get a vaccine because of a disability or conflicting religious beliefs, will instead have to follow strict guidelines like regular Covid testing, masking and social distancing.
“I think probably what these companies are thinking — for those individuals — requiring them to be masked, or constantly tested, is a reasonable accommodation,” Joel Friedman, a law professor at Tulane University, said. “And that’s probably correct.”
Another component of the shifting landscape on vaccines is their expected full approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines are currently administered under an emergency use authorization, so full approval could alleviate concerns over their safety — and encourage even more organizations to make them a requirement.
Any company is within its legal rights to require employees get vaccinated, barring any conflicting disability or religious belief, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is requiring that a good chunk of its workers — an estimated 1.6 million, including those at its headquarters — receive a vaccine.
The Walt Disney Company, Google, Facebook, Tyson Foods and Uber are some of the other large companies requiring at least some of their employees to be vaccinated.
State governments and the Biden administration have also issued vaccine mandates in their capacity as employers, but not in a way that affects the general public.
As many as seven million federal workers are now required to show proof of vaccination, under new guidelines announced by President Biden in late July. If they do not, they’ll have to follow strict rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing and social distancing. The military said it would follow suit with its employees.
most hospitals in Massachusetts, some in South Carolina and others in North Carolina.
And these requirements aren’t a HIPAA violation, either — while the act protects a patient’s confidential health information, including what one’s health care provider can share with others, it doesn’t cover what employers can ask for.
What about your college or university?
Yes. And they may have already done so if you attend one of the more than 500 colleges and universities — including the university system in states like California, Illinois, Colorado and New York — that are making the vaccine an enrollment requirement if students want to take classes in-person this coming semester.
While some campuses are asking students to provide a proof of vaccination, others are incentivizing students with exemptions from mask mandates.
But that doesn’t mean everyone is happy. A federal judge upheld Indiana University’s vaccine requirement last month after a group of students filed a lawsuit. The mandate is also a challenge for international students who may not have access to one of the eight W.H.O.-approved vaccines.
What about children in K-12 schools?
That can depend on whether the child is in a public or private school. While children ages 12 to 17 are now eligible for the vaccine, and it’s likely that younger children will become eligible this fall, it’s not a requirement for attending a public K-12 school anywhere in the country.
Private schools, along with day care centers and camps, can decide whether to require their students to get a vaccine or not.