Ochsner to mandate COVID vaccination for employees after official FDA approval

All three vaccines are under “Emergency Use Authorization” at the moment.
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Ochsner, the largest health system in the state, says it will soon make it mandatory for all of its employees to have their COVID shots.

Although in all states schools have long required certain immunizations, as well as many private health care employers, the suggestion of mandating the COVID-19 vaccine so far has been met with sharp debate.

“We’re just concerned about legal action being taken if we go to a mandatory vaccine prior to the EUA being lifted,” Warner Thomas, Ochsner CEO said.

Thomas says 61% of their employees are fully vaccinated and for the 39% that are not, new restrictions are coming next week.

“That will include how can we test, what sort of mask people use, how we indicate folks that are vaccinated versus not,” Thomas explained.

Many say it’s unclear whether the vaccines can be mandated while still under Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA, and courts haven’t ruled on this issue.

“I don’t think that makes a difference,” Tulane Labor Law expert, Joel Friedman said.

Friedman says he sees nothing in the FDA approval process that states EUA vaccines need to be voluntary.

“If it’s finally approved, then it’s even more obvious that they can do this with two exceptions,” Freidman said.

Those exceptions are religion and health reasons.

“There’s no other limitation under federal law, but states that want to enact more restrictive laws could do so, Louisiana hasn’t done so,” Friedman said.

Several states have either discussed or passed laws to limit schools and employers ability to mandate vaccination.

Friedman cites a long list of laws and regulations to protect employees.

“None of these prohibit employers from doing something like taking reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workers,” Friedman said.

Pfizer appears to be the furthest along in the process of lifting the Emergency Use Authorization. We could see the official approval in January.

Locally, Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, and Dillard University have all enacted vaccination mandates for students already.

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