Are vaccine mandates legal?

Coronavirus

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Delta variant is responsible for many of the more than 2,600 new COVID cases in North Carolina.

That’s a new daily percent positive of 10.8%.

The overwhelming message from leaders and health officials is that it’s the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” per CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The rate of transmission is now so concerning that businesses, schools and government entities are requiring vaccines.

VA healthcare workers were the first federal employees to have the vaccine mandated. If they don’t have the shots by mid-September, they’ll lose their job.

It is reported that President Joe Biden will require all federal workers to get a shot or submit to testing.

In the Triad, healthcare workers at the three largest hospitals, Cone Health, Novant and Wake Forest Baptist Health, have all set vaccination deadlines.

Many FOX8 viewers have asked: are employer vaccine mandates legal?

“It is very legal,” said Karen Mckeithen Schaede, a lawyer at Revolution Law in Greensboro.

It’s a simple answer she has been repeating every time her phone rings with people asking, “can I be forced to get vaccinated?”

“[They say] it’s my constitutional right not to take this vaccine…that’s what I hear over and over again,” Schaede said.

She told FOX8 if people’s actions put someone else at risk, they can be forced to get a shot. It’s happened before.

“It first happened [in 1905] with Smallpox, and the Supreme Court ruled then that it was constitutional and that the public good overruled an individual right,” Schaede explained.

That means the law backs employers who require workers to get vaccinated. Failure to comply could mean people could lose their jobs.

“Employers have the right to say ‘if you’re going to work at this facility or this business, you can always get a new job,'” she said. “You can’t always get a new life…especially if you’re exposing your coworkers or patrons to an illness that could potentially harm them or cause death.”

These kinds of rules could become more common.

“There are organizations and companies that are also waiting for the full approval of the vaccines to change their policies and requirements for vaccinations for their employees,” said Dr. David Montefiore with Duke School of Medicine.

Researchers there said that the delay is due to the long approval process.

“People often correlate FDA approval with a marker of safety that somehow has not been crossed yet,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe said. “I want people to understand there are so many other logistics…that have nothing to do with that.”

Once the shots move past the Emergency Use Authorization, people may have to start proving they’re protected to either get a job or have some fun.

“I think we will see something with vaccines where you’ve got to show a card or something that shows you’ve been vaccinated,” Schaede said. “[Like] big events where you’ve got lots of people in one place, like concerts and those types of things…where you’re going to have to prove you’re vaccinated. And if you’re not, you can’t attend or you’re going to have to wear a mask.”

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