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Eight in 10 economists say employers should require vaccine

As COVID-19 persists and the back-to-school season approaches, most economists say employers should require their workers to be vaccinated before they return to the office.

Eight in 10 economists said they are in favor of employers implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees returning to the workplace, according to a survey conducted by the National Association for Business Economics. Fourteen percent of economists said they oppose companies requiring workers to get jabbed.

The professional association, which counts prominent economists among its members, collected survey responses from 227 of its members between August 2 and August 10.

Businesses small and large are currently weighing whether to impose vaccinate mandates on workers. It is legal for companies to make vaccination mandatory, provided they grant exemptions to certain classes of employees who cannot get the vaccine because of medical or religious reasons.

But some companies have hesitated to implement mandates and have only encouraged employees to get vaccinated, given that, until Monday, no vaccine had received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Full FDA approval

On Monday, however, the FDA granted full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which, until now, was being administered under emergency-use authorization. Full FDA approval could bring more vaccine mandates from businesses, according to employment lawyers.

“Many employers have been waiting for full authorization to compel vaccination, and many have already issued policy statements requiring vaccination within a certain period of time from full authorization,” said Helen Rella, a New York-based employment and labor attorney with global law firm Wilk Auslander. “With the full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine — now known as Comirnaty — we will likely see more employers make vaccination a condition of employment.”

Full authorization shields employers from employee claims that they’re forced to take an experimental drug, even if such an argument is invalid, Rella added.

Indeed, experts expect the FDA’s authorization to compel more businesses to make COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment.

“We started with the concept of employers educating and enabling employees to get the vaccine and with the increase of Delta-variant cases we’ve seen a shift in last couple weeks, with employers going not quite to a vaccine mandate, but instead to a vaccine-or-test mandate,” said Domenique Camacho Moran, labor and employment attorney at Farrell Fritz.

On Monday, after the Pfizer vaccine was approved, President Biden called on employers to require that workers be vaccinated.

“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that, require it. Do what I did last month, require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements,” Mr. Biden said Monday after the FDA decision.

Employers are hopeful that full approval will encourage many formerly hesitant workers to get inoculated against COVID-19.

“Most employers would like to avoid having to mandate the vaccine, but I think that that’s on the horizon,” Camacho Moran said. “Once they make it mandatory with no opt out, there is a possibility that very good long-term employees will not be able to work there. They have to be prepared to lose very good employees — and employers are reluctant to do that.”

Standardizing proof of vaccination

American businesses — from large multinational banks to independent shops — are also grappling with how to verify individuals’ vaccination status. The vaccine cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are flimsy and easy to forge, yet no other national standard currently exists.

Nearly 70% of respondents believe the federal government should overhaul the country’s vaccine verification process by issuing individuals a single, standard document that indicates they are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the NABE survey.

One-quarter of respondents said their employers already require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace. Many more are expected to follow suit.

“I think that’s on the horizon,” Camacho Moran said.

Author: Megan Cerullo / CBS News
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