More employers requiring vaccination after FDA approval

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - With the Food and Drug Administration granting the Pfizer vaccine full approval, more companies are issuing vaccine mandates. But is it legal and can you be exempt?

You may be wondering if your employer has a right to require you be vaccinated. We spoke to a local constitutional rights attorney who says yes they can. It’s just like any other health and safety measure in the workplace. But one area we’ve seen the vaccine requirement momentum growing is in health care.

“As soon as I had the opportunity to get vaccinated. I didn’t hesitate,” said John Ingardia.

For seven years now, Ingardia has owned and operated a personal care home, now he takes care of three veteran patients. As a caregiver he says getting the COVID vaccine was without question.

“We feel that it’s actually socially irresponsible to put other people at risk because of our personal beliefs,” he said.

Vaccine mandates are becoming more common nationwide. Here in Augusta the first institution to make that move a few weeks ago was the Veterans Administration.

“I think when you mandate something they have to make a decision, and really think about why they weren’t choosing to get it in the past. Sometimes there was fear sometimes there was a wait and see attitude,” said Dr. Jennifer Blanchard.

Blanchard is the chief of staff at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. Right now 80 percent of the staff there staff is vaccinated. Only around a few hundred are still unvaccinated, some of those filing for a religious or medical exemption.

“We anticipate that the numbers will actually be fairly small once we’ve gotten everything done,” she said.

But in a time when worker shortages are causing a strain, losing employees because of a mandate is a risk.

“That would certainly be a drastic step, that is always somebody’s right. We had the flu vaccine mandate for the first time last year in VA history, and we didn’t experience that with flu vaccines, so, I would doubt, you never know what will happen,” she said.

With the Pfizer vaccine now FDA-approved similar mandates could be around the corner.

Right now, Charlie Norwood is the only local hospital requiring staff be vaccinated. We reached out to University and they said they have no plans to mandate any type of immunizations for staff. We didn’t hear back from AU about the COVID vaccine plans, but they do currently require the flu shot for all staff.

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