Federal law does not prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines that are under emergency use authorization, the Department of Justice concluded in an opinion.
Three major government entities – the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, California and New York City – said Monday they would require some or all of their government employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly. The vaccines are still awaiting full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“As access to the COVID-19 vaccines has become widespread, numerous educational institutions, employers, and other entities across the United States have announced that they will require individuals to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, enrollment, participation, or some other benefit, service, relationship, or access,” DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote in an opinion. “For instance, certain schools will require vaccination in order for students to attend class in person, and certain employers will require vaccination as a condition of employment.”
The opinion notes that some have questioned whether such entities can lawfully impose such requirements.
In the opinion, the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel says the law concerning emergency use authorizations (EUAs) “does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccine requirements, even when the only vaccines available are those authorized under EUAs.”
The VA became the first agency in the federal government to announce that it will require patient-facing employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Last week, during a White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that every White House official had been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, but clarified Friday that the White House was not requiring officials to be vaccinated.
“No, we have not mandated it,” Psaki responded, after being asked whether the administration was mandating White House staff receive a coronavirus vaccine.
Psaki did not provide a specific number of how many White House officials have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, but said that they are able to track the number of individuals on the president’s staff because “they are vaccinated here in the White House medical unit.”