Legal Opinion: Federal Law Prohibits Employers From Requiring a COVID-19 Vaccine

Aaron Siri is the Managing Partner of Siri & Glimstad LLP.

He has published a legal opinion that “federal law prohibits employers and others from requiring vaccination with a Covid-19 vaccine distributed under an EUA.”

Below is Mr. Siri’s legal opinion as published in STAT:

Ever since the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for two new vaccines, employers, schools, and other organizations are grappling with whether to require Covid-19 vaccination.

While organizations are certainly free to encourage their employees, students, and other members to be vaccinated, federal law provides that, at least until the vaccine is licensed, individuals must have the option to accept or decline to be vaccinated.

Knowing what an organization can or cannot do with respect to Covid-19 vaccines can help them keep their employees, students, and members safe and also save the them from costly and time-consuming litigation.

Much remains unknown about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine

Even though the FDA granted emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in December 2020, the clinical trials the FDA will rely upon to ultimately decide whether to license these vaccines are still underway and are designed to last for approximately two years to collect adequate data to establish if these vaccines are safe and effective enough for the FDA to license.

The abbreviated timelines for the emergency use applications and authorizations means there is much the FDA does not know about these products even as it authorizes them for emergency use, including their effectiveness against asymptomatic infection, death, and transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

Given the uncertainty about the two vaccines, their EUAs are explicit that each is “an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication” and require that all “promotional material relating to the Covid-19 Vaccine clearly and conspicuously … state that this product has not been approved or licensed by the FDA, but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA” (emphasis added).



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