Could businesses require employees get a COVID-19 vaccine? An expert says yes

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — Businesses have some big decisions ahead, including whether they should require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to work. 

Employment attorney Paul Starkman said companies probably have the right to do so but it’s not really the norm outside of the healthcare arena.

“I don’t think as a general rule most employers are mandating you take any kind of vaccine right now, but this is such a strange event it changes the whole landscape of what is likely to happen,” Starkman said.

It’s no secret that all the front-runner vaccines have been developed at warp speed, so some people may understandably have concerns. 

But while exceptions will likely be made for people with disabilities or other health concerns, just being worried about the vaccine because of how it was developed likely won’t be enough reason to refuse taking it. 

“If you have an individualized concern about your particular situation, if you’re in a high risk for a possible side effect or something like that, that might be a legit reason for an exception to be made but general fears are not probably going to be enough,” Starkman said.

Considering the impact this pandemic has had on the economy, Starkman said companies will be eager to get back on track.

“It may impact their decision on how forcefully they are going to require people to take the vaccine once it becomes available,” Starkman said.

Outside of businesses, Starkman said schools and districts have been able to mandate children take certain meds or get vaccinated for things like measles, so they could require them to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as well. 

Although Starkman said it’s really all up in the air. 

“Governor Pritzker has said he doesn’t think they’re going to mandate it for schools at least but we’ll see what happens when the vaccine rolls out,” he said.

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