On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration gave permanent approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Similar approval of the Moderna vaccine may be forthcoming, with eventual approval of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccination likely. Following the FDA’s announcement, a growing number of employers including Disney, CVS and Chevron, informed employees of the need to show proof of vaccination as a condition of continuing employment.
From the legal perspective, this final approval was not necessary to enforce these vaccination requirements. Every court to consider challenges to employer vaccination mandates has rejected claims that the emergency temporary use authorization gave workers the right to refuse to comply with employer mandates. However, permanent FDA approval appears to have prompted more employers to require vaccinations, perhaps because it eliminates employee objections over the “experimental” nature of the vaccine.
These employer mandates have increased in response to surging COVID-19 infection rates attributable to the Delta variant. Employers frustrated over the impact of the variant on their return to the office plans, and those with substantial employee contact with members of the public may have concluded that the benefits of mandating vaccinations have overcome concerns over employee turnover from those workers still hesitant to comply with the vaccination requirement.