COVID-19 vaccine legal questions answered

Posted at 8:41 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 07:23:56-05

BALTIMORE — We’re getting closer to the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

With a weapon against the virus on the horizon, people have a lot of questions.

The United Kingdom will start distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine from Pfizer next week. Here across the pond the FDA will hold a panel next week to decide when to roll it out in the United States.

Professor Diane Hoffmann is the director of the Law and Healthcare Program at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

She said that in the past there has been questions over the ethicalness of how scarcely available resources are distributed but is hopeful that isn’t the case with the vaccine.

“Here there is an effort in place I think by the organizations, both the National Academies and CDC to actually try to mitigate health disparities and look at justice issues and fairness issues in the allocation of a vaccine,” Hoffmann said.

She said whether a workplace can require you to get the vaccine is a complicated question.

“Vaccinations as well as health screenings are considered medical examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To complete with that law the vaccination has to be job related or a business necessity.”

Places like schools and health care facilities can require employees to get vaccinated— but there are still reasons why people could qualify for an exemption.

“Sincerely Held religious belief that opposes vaccines than the employer would have to accommodate as long as it wouldn't impose and undue burden on the employer. Also, if the employee had a medical condition where the doctor believed it would be unsafe for them to get the vaccine.”

There’s a federal law called the PREP Act that was put in place this February.

It protects distributors and manufacturers of medications and vaccines.

“That law immunizes those distributors and administrators of the vaccine from individual liability under state and federal laws.”

Health experts are adamant that although the 95% effective Pfizer vaccine is getting moved through quickly—they still feel that it is safe.

Lt. Governor Governor Boyd Rutherford stressed the importance of getting the vaccine when it’s available.

“Those who even say 'I don’t want to be the first one' well you’re not going to be the first one okay. By the time we get to everyone including us it’ll be the Spring if we’re fortunate,” Rutherford said.

If the Pfizer Vaccine passes through the panel on December 10th the FDA can approve it and will start going out to front line healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities by the end of the month.

On Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan said he believes our state will get about 155,000 doses in the first phase.