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EEOC Provides Updated Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccinations

Since December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of three COVID-19 vaccines. As of June 21, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 177.3 million people had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 150 million of those people were fully vaccinated. But where does that leave employers? Can they mandate the vaccine for employees? Should they?

On May 28, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its technical COVID-19 guidance, titled “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” regarding COVID-19 vaccination programs. The updated guidance is consistent with the agency’s historic approach to mandatory vaccine programs, including guidance issued during the H1N1 (“swine flu”) pandemic in 2009.

While the main takeaway is that the EEOC generally considers mandatory vaccination programs lawful, subject to exemptions for disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs, there are a range of issues and potential pitfalls for employers to consider in developing a COVID-19 vaccination program to best serve their employees and constituents.

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