As vaccines approach full FDA approval, could employers require workers to get the shot?

Posted at 12:09 AM, May 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 01:07:10-04

CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during a visit Friday to Cincinnati's West Side offered some speculation on a question many have been asking as COVID-19 vaccine supply begins to outpace demand.

Can an employer mandate their employees receive the coronavirus vaccine?

"I think you're going to see private businesses more inclined maybe to make that an order," DeWine said.

All three types of COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. today -- Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- are on the market with emergency use authorization. That's just one step away from full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

With Pfizer now poised to request full approval of its vaccine, it could open doors for employers to compel their employees to receive the vaccine in order to go back to work, DeWine said, because full FDA approval would close some liability loopholes companies currently face if they were to mandate a emergency-approved inoculation.

"I talked to somebody literally two hours ago on the phone, private business," DeWine said Friday. "I wasn't encouraging it or not, and this person said to me, 'July one. We've already told our folks everybody's got to be vaccinated.'"

But business owner Tim Meehan said a vaccine requirement makes him uneasy. He and his partner Halle visited Deerfield Cinema today, enjoying a movie now that they're fully vaccinated themselves.

"I know that's a personal choice," Tim Meehan said. "I think it's important to get the vaccine, but I don't know about forcing employees to get it."

Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore supports people getting vaccinated but is wary of mandates, too.

"I don't like the stick approach," Moore said. "Let me give you the science and the information, and let's do what we need to do to get back to what this new normal is going to be."

As part of that approach, Moore's health department will throw a block party Saturday in Hartwell at 8725 Vine Street. A vaccine clinic offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot will operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with walk-up appointments available until 4 p.m. There will be food and live music.