Chances of COVID-19 vaccine exemption rare as more employers mandate vaccination

Nursing homes, retirement communities wary of potential hiring ramifications of anticipated...
Nursing homes, retirement communities wary of potential hiring ramifications of anticipated vaccine mandate(Mary Green)
Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:53 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 12:21 PM EDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As more companies and colleges mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, do employees have any recourse to avoid getting the shot?

There are two types of exemptions to mandatory vaccination orders: medical and religious.

After talking with an attorney, a law professor, and a doctor, it’s clear that vaccine exemptions are very rare.

“There are very few, true medical exemptions,” said Dr. Jon McCullers, pediatrician in chief at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.”

He said those who are profoundly immunocompromised, like a recent organ transplant recipient, have a legitimate medical reason to wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But most others have no excuse.

“Other than that, the only other reason not to get the vaccine, really is severe reaction to it or a component of the vaccine, like the gelatin used to preserve it,” McCullers added. But since this is a new vaccine, essentially nobody’s had a history of allergic reactions to it.”

University of Memphis law professor, Steve Mulroy, said if someone goes the religious exemption route, they will likely have to show a history of religious exemptions to all vaccines.

So far, no major religious groups have opposed the COVID shots. In fact, several Catholic dioceses, including Chicago, now mandate them. The wild card? “To what extent would the current U.S. Supreme Court act?” said Mulroy, “A court which seems so sympathetic to religious exemptions, will it require waivers for that, for sincere religious objections to vaccinations?”

Politics could still play into it. Montana became the first state in the nation this week to ban employee vaccine mandates. Memphis attorney Alan Crone, with The Crone Law Firm, PLC, said Republican state lawmakers interested in calling a special session to end mask mandates also voiced strong opposition to vaccine mandates.

“I could absolutely see Tennessee doing something similar, and one of the things they wanted to take care of is employers discriminating against the unvaccinated,” Crone said. “Now, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce pushed back on that. So it’s going to be interesting to see whether the Civil Libertarian wing of the party or the business wing of the party has the votes in Nashville to un-mandate the vaccine mandate.”

And if your employer does mandate the shot and you get it, Crone said the federal statute offering protection from bad vaccines doesn’t apply in this pandemic.

“As of right now, COVID vaccines are exempted from that law, so there really isn’t any recourse against anybody if you get sick from the vaccine,” Crone said.

Action News 5 reached out to the Memphis Diocese for comment about vaccine exemptions. We are still waiting to hear back.

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