FDA's full approval of Pfizer vaccine may give mandates more 'legal cover,' employment lawyer says

Virus Outbreak Pfizer Vaccine Effectiveness
Posted at 9:18 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 11:18:37-04

DENVER -- More than 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have already gone into arms in Colorado, and doctors hope Monday's decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to give the vaccine its full approval convinces others to get the shot.

"We hope that the FDA approval further emphasizes how safe these vaccines are and for whatever people were waiting for this approval, for whatever reason, we hope people will get vaccinated," UCHealth Chief of Emergency Services Dr. Richard Zane said.

Some businesses and municipalities have already required their employees to get a vaccine, even before Monday's announcement.

The City and County of Denver's requirement for its employees goes into effect on Sept. 30. But other municipalities, like Boulder, aren't yet making any decision based on the vaccine's full approval.

"We're doing something a little different than Denver. Denver is doing what they feel is appropriate for their community, and I think it's going to continue to be evolving situation," Sarah Huntley, a spokesperson for the City of Boulder, said.

Instead of a vaccine mandate, Boulder will soon require its employees to wear masks both indoors and outdoors. But those who fill out a form by Sept. 1 attesting they've been vaccinated won't have to wear a mask when that mandate goes into effect.

"It felt like a substantive enough move forward to help protect our community and our employees without having to go to that full measure," Huntley said. "We may have to adjust along the way. We're very mindful of that."

School districts like Aurora Public Schools have waited for the FDA's full approval of a vaccine to institute a vaccine mandate. The district announced Monday all of its staff must get the shot, and provide proof of vaccination, by Oct. 7. If they don't, they could get fired.

Denver employment and business attorney Bryan Kuhn says the FDA's decision to approve the Pfizer vaccine may encourage more employers to require it as it gives them more "legal cover."

"It does very likely favor employers mandating vaccinations because, again, the designation is not experimental any longer from the FDA," he said. "Not a huge difference, but it's probably somewhat helpful to the employers."