WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday will announce sweeping new federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans.
The biggest move will require large companies to mandate vaccines for their employees or test for the coronavirus on a weekly basis. More than 208 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccines.
The new requirements are part of a new White House "action plan" to address the rise of COVID-19 cases and slowing pace of shots.
How can the federal government mandate a vaccine?
The requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for employees will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation, an administration official said. The White House did not immediately say when it would take effect, but said workers would have sufficient time to get vaccinated.
The rule would also require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccination.
What COVID vaccine is FDA approved in the US?
Pfizer's two-dose COVID-19 vaccine received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drum Administration in late August.
Moderna's two-dose vaccine, along with Johnson and Johnson's single-dose shot have been approved for months through an emergency use authorization, or EUA, from the FDA.
Can employers require a coronavirus vaccine?
Yes. Private companies and government agencies can require their employees to get vaccinated as a condition of working there. Individuals retain the right to refuse, but they have no ironclad right to legal protection.
Do federal employment laws prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines?
No, VERIFY found that according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are no federal laws in place stopping an employer from requiring employees to be vaccinated as long as the employer makes reasonable accommodations to comply with the American Disabilities Act.
Charles Johnson, a labor and employment lawyer based in North Carolina, told VERIFY employers must also provide accommodation for employees who have religious reasons for not getting vaccinated. But otherwise, he says employers can generally require vaccinations.
“Governments, employers and others can mandate vaccines in the interest of public health and safety,” he said. “And there are very few limitations.”
Erin Jones and Brandon Lewis with VERIFY contributed to this report.