Can you be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Yes, but…

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With a COVID-19 vaccine just around the corner, many are wondering who will be required to get one.

For instance, can your employer require you to get vaccinated? The short answer is yes.

Your employer can require you to get a vaccine to keep working, according to AARP.

There are exemptions. Medical issues and religious beliefs are two possible reasons for exemption.

A medical issues doesn’t mean you’re worried about side effects of the vaccine, however. This would instead be a condition or disability that prevents you from getting one.

If you are exempt, your employer is allowed to come up with a reasonable alternative and they do have to make that accommodation. They can’t just fire you outright.

They could require you to wear a mask or work from home. If you don’t comply with a reasonable accommodation, then your job could be on the line, according to the ADA.

A Tennessee representative wants to make sure the government can’t force you to get the vaccine. Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) filed House Bill 13 last week.

The bill says neither government nor law enforcement agencies can “force, require, or coerce a person to receive an immunization or vaccination for COVID-19 against a person’s will.”

Hulsey specifically notes he wants to keep police from being able to enforce vaccine requirements.

State governments can implement vaccine requirements. This dates all the way back to a court case in 1905 over smallpox. People in Massachusetts were fined if they didn’t get the vaccine. Someone sued, but the ruling was in favor of the state. This is considered a benchmark case even more than 100 years later.

Employers can still require vaccines. This is nothing new. All 50 states have school entry vaccine requirements.

Additionally, states are constantly changing and challenging both vaccine requirement laws and exemptions. Sometimes they strengthen them and other times they loosen them.

Many employers may choose to simply encourage coronavirus vaccines rather than require them, however. Experts said it is more likely in healthcare fields than in some other industries to see vaccine requirements for employees.

According to health officials, Tennessee could see vaccine distribution begin as early as Dec. 18.

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