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Full approval could pave way for more mandatory COVID-19 shots

With two vaccines signaling application for full FDA approval, it might not be long before more employers follow suit with requiring vaccinations.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With North Carolina is offering cash cards for COVID-19 shots and $1 million vaccine lotteries, incentives are seemingly still the primary method of boosting vaccinations.

But some think mandatory vaccinations could be in the near future for many.

Some universities and hospital systems are already requiring the shot, while other entities are incentivizing it for employees with bonuses or time off.

However, with two different vaccines signaling applications for full FDA approval, it might not be long before many more employers follow suit with the mandatory route.

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Late last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance saying federal laws do not block employers from requiring coronavirus vaccinations, as long as the usual health and religious exemptions are allowed.

However, Charlotte employment attorney Josh Van Kampen thinks the rules might even take the moves towards mandatory shots a step further.

"Employers are going to be under increasing pressure to actually require vaccinations," Van Kampen said.

Van Kampen said the pressure would come from an OSHA statute.

"It contains a general-duty clause which requires employers to provide a safe working environment from 'recognized hazards,' and obviously, COVID is recognized hazard," Van Kampen said.

Right now, both Pfizer and Moderna are seeking full FDA approval for their COVID-19 shots, but even under the current emergency use authorization, some groups are already moving ahead with mandates. 

If full approval does come, Dr. David Priest, the chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer with Novant Health, thinks it might not be long until more employers move to require shots.

"I think many industries are waiting for full approval to come before they take that step," Priest said.

Over the weekend, a federal court in Texas dismissed a lawsuit by more than a hundred hospital employees who were challenging a vaccination requirement. In a written decision, the judge said the employees had no case.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram