Full FDA Approval of COVID Vaccine Could Be What Employers Are Waiting For

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With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that all school personnel and state employees in New Jersey must be immunized against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, starting in mid-October. Murphy signed a similar executive order earlier this month to require the same of all health care, elder care and corrections workers, and the federal government is now imposing similar policies.

The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and is now being marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

Regulators are still reviewing Moderna’s application for full approval of its vaccine. That decision could come this month.  Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply soon for full approval.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three out of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get a shot once it was fully approved.

But even as some larger employers nationwide began implementing mandatory COVID-19 vaccine requirements in the workplace, smaller employers are apprehensive about frivolous lawsuits, says John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey.

“Full vaccine approval offers employers a major defense to a lawsuit alleging that the employer is requiring something that is unsafe but there is still a ton of misinformation out there, particularly on social media” says Sarno.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has stated that the proliferation of misinformation about the COVID vaccine is aided and abetted by social media platforms.

“The speed, scale and sophistication with which it is spreading and impacting our health is really unprecedented,” he said.

Sarno does not think that an anti-vaccination social media post, such as a post stating that the vaccine has killed more people than the virus, can form the basis of an employee lawsuit but an employee could use it as a threat to sue the employer.

“It’s the employee’s threat that creates friction and its that friction that the employer is always trying to avoid,” he says.

Sarno is hosting a one-hour exclusive EANJ members-only webinar on September 14th that will cover whether employers should require a COVID vaccination as a condition of employment.  Details and Registration here.