DES MOINES, Iowa — Local doctors say 70% of the population needs to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order for there to be herd immunity against the virus.
Some people are still skeptical about getting the vaccine but they could be fired from their job if they don’t get it.
“You know, and the short answer would be, in most cases, yes, there is a strong case for a legal basis to do so,” Drake University Law School Associate Professor Denise Hill said.
Hill said this law goes back to a case in 1905 when there was a smallpox outbreak.
“Public Health could delegate to local authorities the powers to mandate in that case smallpox vaccines, and they even had criminal fines or imprisonment for those who weren’t in compliance,” Hill said.
Right now, the Iowa Department of Public Health is not requiring Iowans to take a COVID-19 vaccination, but they said many employers might be.
Hy-Vee, however, said they will not require their employees to get the vaccination.
“Well, it certainly won’t be a requirement. But we, we are viewed as essential workers obviously as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic. You know the need for folks to be able to come in and get their groceries in a safe environment, we’ve been there on the forefront, nationally recognized as one of the best at handling this pandemic,” Hy-Vee Executive Vice President and Chief Health Officer Aaron Wiese said.
Hill said companies will decide based on business necessity.
“So, is it an insurance company where people can work remotely, where people can, you know, social distance and wear masks and be protected and other ways as a job where you interact a lot with the public, like travel or retail, or other businesses where their employees, and the public are at risk,” Hill said.
She said there are some exemptions to the vaccination requirements including religious beliefs and medical reasons.
“The employer has a responsibility to protect them from other employees who can be vaccinated,” Hill said.
And even though they will not require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Hy-Vee is preparing to make it available.
“And we really want to make sure that our employees are protected and make the vaccine available to them as early as possible. And so, we see that both as our pharmacy employees as well as our grocery employees and our supply chain,” Wiese said.
Denise Hill recommends employers figure out a policy now and include their employees in the discussion.