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Lexington attorney says COVID-19 vaccine could become requirement to work some places

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 5:13 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The FDA could soon approve Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

If it clears, it would be the second vaccine in the United States.

With that news, we’re digging deeper into the legal aspects of vaccines.

This week, we saw the first COVID-19 vaccines in Kentucky go to healthcare workers. Hospitals tell us they’re encouraging their workers to get the vaccine, but, right now, it’s not a mandate.

Lexington attorney Sandra Spurgeon tells us that could change. She believes as the vaccine becomes more available, it could become a requirement for working at some places.

“There will be very narrow exceptions, if any, to allow them to not get inoculated with the vaccine,” Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon says healthcare workers have already been required to get vaccinated for things like rubella and the flu. That was challenged and upheld.

“The federal appellate court said garden-variety allergies and or fear does not sufficiently outweigh the balancing of the requirements to protect the public health,” Spurgeon said.

As for other private employers, she says businesses may start requiring the vaccination as a way to protect themselves from future litigation.

“There’s law firms recruiting folks who have contracted COVID and/or their families, people have contracted COVID in an employee setting, to sue the employer,” Spurgeon said. “People are being sued because their employees are contracting the coronavirus in the course of the employment. And so, the option would have been the argument will be, ‘well, we have a policy that requires the employees be vaccinated, and, so then people are going to refuse to be vaccinated and they’re going to cite their constitutional rights.’”

There are exceptions for things like religious beliefs and disabilities.

All of this will play out in the court system. We don’t know of any cases yet, but she says it’s only a matter of time before litigation makes its way to the highest court in the land.

“These are federal regulations, and our Supreme Court will speak to it,” Spurgeon said. “Most likely within the next 6 to 12 months. I think that they will expedite once cases are filed, I think if they will join them and they will expedite the rulings from the district to the appellate to the US Supreme Court because there will have to be clarity.”

Spurgeon said she also believes private businesses will be able to require their customers to show proof of vaccination if they choose to, unless the customers are in one of those protected classes.

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