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COVID-19 vaccines could be required for certain jobs

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Pfizer's CEO says the company could seek emergency authorization of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in November 2020. (WWMT/File)

Pfizer has been racing to get a COVID-19 vaccine to market before 2021 and has been seeking emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

The pharmaceutical giant was building a stockpile to start distribution because millions could be lining up to voluntarily take the vaccine, but some people could be required to get the shot.

“The state of Michigan could require all health employers, so that would get all of the health workers statewide. Then the universities could do it individually and then the school’s districts could do it. It could have a sort of patch work approach where you have different guidance coming from different places,” Western Michigan University professor Fritz Allhoff said.

Allhoff said the federal government doesn’t have the power require a vaccine, but state and local governments could require it, depending on where you work.

He said that the virus is more likely to spread in certain environments, but he said people would also be able to opt out.

“There may be certain people with health conditions for whom the vaccine may be incompatible so that would be one way people could get out. And the second big one will be conscientious objectors and people who have religious objections to vaccines,” Allhoff said.

Western Michigan University biomed student Giselly Silva said she would get vaccinated if the university requires it, but she opposes a mandatory vaccination nationwide.

“The government shouldn’t really intervene with people’s personal medical choices. I think it should be suggested in a way that’s not intimidating," Silva said.

If state and local governments require vaccination, Allhoff said you can bet there would be lawsuits.

“There are lots of ways that people can push back against it. It’ll all just depend in part on what the mandate is,” he said.

He said the time for anyone mandating a vaccine was a long way off.

As of Nov. 20, 2020, the FDA had not approved for use of any vaccine in the United States. Even after approval, distribution hurdles would most likely prevent it from being available to everyone, right away.