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Can jobs or schools require you or kids to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Here's what we know

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 05:00:06-04

(WXYZ) — Most businesses are open and schools are coming back in session, but there are major concessions to the coronavirus. From kindergarten to college, schools are switching to virtual learning and businesses are operating at reduced capacity.

There is a race to create a COVID-19 vaccine to beat back the virus, and now, we're looking at who can require you to get the future vaccine, and what rights you have to push back.

There's a lot of hope a coronavirus vaccine can help us get back to normal life, but that only works if the public takes the vaccine.

We reached out on Facebook to see what people thought about the vaccine and got strong opinions.

"I'm getting the flu shot and Covid shot as soon as it's available," Marina Palushaj said on Facebook.

"Nope no flu shot or covid vaccine when one is available," Christeena Bourgeois said. "Side note.. my child has all his other vaccines."

Erica Pettinaro, from Informed Choice Michigan, is skeptical.

"In Michigan specifically, we have three different exemptions, medical, religious and philosophical or personal. And I would be utilizing those immediately," she said.

Pettinaro is a mother of five and said she's no fan of vaccines, but trusts any potential COVID-19 vaccine even less.

"This COVID vaccine is being so fast-tracked. We know for a fact that's not being tested as thorough as other vaccines are," she said.

Public Health Law Expert Professor Lance Gable said confidence in vaccines is the key to public health. Gable said despite parent protest, the state can require kids to get a future coronavirus vaccine, just as other childhood shots.

"State requirements of this sort, as long as they have scientific evidence supporting their necessity, often they're going to be upheld," he said.

He added, "It's really important we get this right and it's really important we maintain trust."

Parents can request a non-medical waiver. It will require a visit with a county health educator and during disease outbreaks, non-vaccinated kids can be excluded from school.

What about your job? Federal guidance says employers can require a COVID-19 test to look for active infection but not for antibodies. A vaccine can be closer to antibody screening.

“So it could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and it might be a problem for employers to do that," Gable said.

Healthcare employers have a greater ability to require workers to get vaccines to protect the life of patients.

With the life of the economy hanging in the balance, don't be shocked if other employers ask, too. But the success of a vaccine depends on the public feeling confident enough to voluntarily roll up their sleeves.

"You know, we have the right to not be forcefully injected with something. We don't even know what the full risks are," Pettinaro said.

If businesses or schools require workers or students to get a new COVID-19 vaccine, expect the issue to get tied up in court. Especially if the FDA allows emergency use authorization and short-circuits clinical trials.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.