Can Employers Require Workers To Be Vaccinated? It Depends
When measles first hit Disneyland back in December, several employees were infected. The company asked workers who may have had contact with the ill not to come back to work until they showed proof of immunity. And Disney footed the bill for those who needed to update their vaccines.
What about where you work? Do employers have any responsibility to check the vaccination status of their staff, even when there's no imminent outbreak?
"It depends on what type of employer and what type of job," says Dr. Arthur Reingold, a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
When it comes to measles risk, there are three types of companies, he says.
Even at schools or day care centers, Reingold says, it doesn't make sense to require proof of vaccination. "Just because of how unwieldy and expensive it would be," he says. "I think a lot of people would consider that a distraction."
About 96 percent of adults in the United States are already immune to measles, Reingold says. Finding the remaining 4 percent scattered throughout the workforce would mean requiring employees to submit their immunization record (can you find yours?), or undergo testing.
"You can imagine the amount of disruption for teachers running off to get a blood test," Reingold says. "That would be a fair bit of work, collectively, for society."
For the public health benefit that might result, it's just not worth the effort or cost, he says. Resources are better spent making sure kids are vaccinated. So the boss should just stay out of it.
This story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, KQED and Kaiser Health News.
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