Employee vaccine mandates have been legal since smallpox 116 years ago

COVID-19 Vaccine

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Now that President Joe Biden has announced requirements for federal workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear masks, experts say we could see more vaccine mandates soon.

We told you how UCHealth, Banner Health and Denver Health are among several Colorado employers who will require COVID vaccinations, and other employers could be right behind them — like the City and County of Denver, which is expected to announce an employee vaccine mandate in the coming days.

Unvaccinated healthcare work ‘unethical’

Vaccine mandates are not new; they’ve been put in place in the past to prevent the spread of other diseases. This time around, with only a little more than half of Colorado fully vaccinated, doctors say more workplaces may require them.

“In terms of the vaccination rollout and the process of making a decision about a mandate, that is playing out at a much faster pace than what we’ve seen in the past,” said Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of bioethics and humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Wynia said those in the medical field will likely see vaccine mandates first.

“The professional ethics around here are quite clear: If you are a health professional and you’ve taken an oath not to harm your patients, and if you catch COVID — even if you’re asymptomatic, and you end up giving it to a patient, that is the very definition of unethical for a healthcare professional,” Wynia said.

Vaccine mandates legal since early 1900s

Many people have asked: Is it legal for employers or the government to require the shots?

“The answer to your question, are vaccination mandates legal, is yes. They are clearly legal under U.S. law and under the U.S. Constitution, and that has been litigated repeatedly and essentially always comes up with the same answer,” Wynia said.

He said things have been that way since the early 1900s, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld smallpox vaccine mandates.

Experts warn if we want to stop COVID outbreaks as we did with smallpox, the key is vaccines, but the choice to vaccinate is up to you.

“What we are talking about with things like vaccine mandates are: If you don’t get vaccinated, you are going to have to pay a fine, or you are not going to be able to do this activity you would like to be able to do. You may not be able to hold the job you have right now if you don’t get vaccinated. Those are not the same as forcibly injecting someone,” Wynia said.

As for what types of businesses we may see put mandates in place, doctors say it depends on which groups spread the illness to vulnerable populations.

Experts do expect these mandates to uphold in court even with some states banning them.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Most Read

Top Stories