Don’t look now, but vaccine mandates are fast becoming commonplace in travel. All over the world, many companies are requiring customers to show proof of full vaccination before being accepted. In fact, many industry experts expressed surprise at how fast agencies adopted these mandates.
Harry Nelson, founder of healthcare law firm Nelson Hardiman is one of those people. It has been interesting to watch the striking acceleration of vaccine mandates,” he said.
Nelson also said that the Food and Drug Administration's approval of a COVID-19 vaccine plus public opinion from a vaccinated majority is driving the change.
But Are Vaccine Mandates Legal?
According to Lawrence O. Gostin, professor at Georgetown Law, the answer is yes. “Businesses have full power to require reasonable safety standards for customers. Just as many businesses have required masking, they could also ask for proof of vaccination,” he opined.
Gostin said that the premise remained true no matter who ordered the vaccine mandates. “For some high-risk businesses, such as cruise lines and hotels, it is very much in their economic interests to make their customers feel safe and secure.
They have every right to do so,” Gostin added. “Similarly, President Biden, who oversees federal properties, could require proof of vaccination for entry to national parks and federal buildings.”
What About Exemptions?
Nelson agrees with the vaccine mandates. He added that the US has a long history of courts upholding requirements. However, many decisions are set in the context of school requirements. He expects that COVID-19 vaccine mandates will stand up for the most part.
The bigger issue right now is how to deal with exemptions to vaccine mandates. Gostin said that companies will likely need to allow medical and religious exemptions. But, these exemptions will be both narrow and hard to acquire.
For example, United AIrlines granted religious exemptions to these mandates. However, the company announced unvaccinated employees will be on unpaid medical leave by next month.
Government Can Refuse Religious Exemptions
Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia School of Law professor, published an article published last week on The Conversation. He said that the government has an easy case to refuse religious exemptions.
“Even when religious objections are sincere, the government has a compelling interest in overriding them and insisting that everyone be vaccinated. And that overrides any claim under state or federal constitutions or religious liberty legislation,” he said.
He also said that challenges to these mandates won’t go far. That is, unless laws change and courts uphold the changes. Meanwhile, Nelson believes that the majority of US Supreme Court justices will welcome the chance to articulate broader personal religious freedoms.
Expect More Companies To Impose Vaccine Mandates
Nelson warned Americans to expect more companies to announce vaccine mandates. Even more requirements will surface once the FDA approves vaccines for the younger Americans aged 5-12.
Meanwhile, US officials continue to debate on whether to require Americans full vaccinations for both domestic and international flights. Gostin said he foresees President Biden issuing a vaccine mandate for interstate or international travel.
This is similar to the one the White House announced earlier this week for foreign air travellers. “But airlines themselves could also set this requirement,” said.
Watch the WCNC video verifying if vaccine mandates violate the Ninth Amendment:
Do you agree that vaccine mandates are legal? In addition, should the government honor medical and religious exemptions? Tell us what you think about vaccine mandates. Share your comments below.
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