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Questions over whether SD hospitals will mandate the vaccine for healthcare workers

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 3:51 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 11:14:08-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – As hospitals across San Diego prepare to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to front line workers, questions have been raised about whether receiving the vaccine will be mandated for healthcare employees.

“We will not make the vaccine mandatory. We do not make the normal flu vaccine mandatory. We do, however, require our staff to continue to wear masks throughout the entire flu season if they chose to not get the flu vaccine,” Palomar Health CEO Diane Hansen told ABC10 News. She said that Palomar Health’s policy will be no different with the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, ABC10 News spoke to hospital representatives at Sharp Healthcare, Scripps Health and Kaiser Permanente. They echoed Palomar Health's policy in that the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandated but workers who decline to get it must wear PPE.

San Diego employment attorney and legal analyst Dan Eaton told ABC10 News on Monday that hospitals can impose a mandate but so far that hasn't happened. “Employers generally have the legal right to mandate vaccination in the private workplace, subject to accommodations for medical conditions and religious objections, but there is a broader ethical question about whether they ought to mandate vaccination,” he said. He explained that the concern becomes whether mandating a resistant population creates a morale problem. “[The question is] whether, at the end of the day, you're acting in a nurturing fashion toward your employees if you mandate a vaccination that they don't want or they don't trust.”

Eaton said it may be that at some point the state or federal legislature steps in in some form or fashion with respect to mandatory vaccination, but that's not the current case.