What full FDA approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine means for your employment

Published: August 24, 2021 8:00 AM EDT
Updated: August 24, 2021 8:35 AM EDT

Now that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has full approval from the FDA, does that affect your rights at work if your employer looks to mandate the shot?

Technically, they can already do whatever they want, but this might have just given them enough fighting power to incentivize their employees to actually get vaccinated. And even though this Pfizer vaccine might seem small, the fact that the FDA just approved it is huge, because until now it was only available because of emergency authorization.

Ryan Barack, a board-certified labor and employment attorney, says the argument of not wanting to get the vaccine because it is too experimental and not tested on enough people just lost its stamina.

“I think the argument was problematic beforehand,” Barack said. “I think it’s even more problematic now. The emergency use authorization really wasn’t something that should impact on whether or not employers can mandate [the] vaccine. It was an argument that people were trying to use that had been rejected by the courts. And now it’s really not even an option for an argument.”

CBS News reports Tuesday morning that more employers are already mandating that their employees get vaccinated. According to Fortune 500, all major companies are requiring their workers get the shot, and Barack says it’s about time.

“I think that this may provide an opportunity for those last holdouts to really go get the vaccine, see how important it is, understand that it has been completely approved,” Barack said. “And now is the time, if you haven’t already gotten your jab, to go get it. Again, employers in most circumstances can say, ‘If you want to keep the job, you’ve got to get the jab.'”

The FDA’s official definition of “approval,” as opposed to emergency authorization, is that “data on the drug’s effects have been reviewed by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research,” which rules on whether the drug’s provided benefits “outweigh its known and potential risks for the intended population.” According to Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health, “The difference between authorization and approval does not have anything to do with new studies, it has to do with making sure that people have been followed for a long enough time.”