Here’s what Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine approval could mean for workers

A health expert explains how mandatory vaccination wouldn’t be something new

SAN ANTONIO – On Monday, the FDA fully approved the Pfizer COVID vaccine for those 16 and older.

Keegan Warren-Clem, health law expert and University of Texas at Austin’s School of law adjunct professor said mandatory vaccination wouldn’t be something new.

“Mandatory vaccination dates to the very early 20th century. Over 100 years ago, the US Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts stated that innoculation can be a required as part of the public health response. And arguably, the COVID vaccines are no different than the required vaccines that are already on the books,” Warren-Clem said.

As companies begin implementing their own plan for the pandemic, there will be some exemptions.

“I think that for people who don’t qualify for medical or religious exception or who don’t qualify for an exception under the Americans with Disabilities Act, for instance, or other employment laws, that it is a very real possibility that they will have some tough decisions to make in terms of continuing their employment,” Warren-Clem said.

Keegan hopes this approval will boost confidence in the vaccine.

“Unfortunately, there is a strong anti-vaccination contingent and I don’t think they will necessarily be persuaded by this change in status and the increase in information, but I certainly hope they are,” Warren-Clem said.

Many institutions already require other vaccines like measles and rubella.

In regards to the pandemic, the COVID-19 vaccine approved is the same millions of people have been using in the fight early on.

“I think it’s great first of all, that it did get fully approved,” said James Moore, executive chef and operating partner of Fully Belly Cafe and Bar.

Moore welcomes the news of Pfizer’s new milestone. Amid the rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations, he and his staff have gone back to masking up. He’s hoping it will encourage more people to get the COVID-19 shot.

“We have helped at least half of the current staff get vaccinated. Others have handled it on their own,” Moore said.

While Moore can use a vaccine mandate, he says he’s not ready to do that.

“Legally, we could require staff to be vaccinated here in Texas, but we don’t,” Moore said.

To learn more about the difference between emergency use authorization and full FDA approval click here.

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Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.