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Frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine questions for employers

Here are the most common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine we've received from policyholders.

posted February 17, 2021

For the safety and health of the entire community, vaccination is the best tool we have to end the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon. Along with wearing masks, staying physically distant, washing our hands, and avoiding large indoor gatherings, we can help reduce the spread of the virus.

Employers can help by encouraging and supporting employees to get the vaccine. For example, they may provide safety and efficacy information, assist with costs when possible, or direct them to trusted information from the Oregon Health Authority and the CDC.

Vaccines already in use include the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are messenger RNA vaccines (mRNA). mRNA vaccines give our cells instructions to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. Our bodies recognize the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. See the CDC for more information on how mRNA vaccines work.

Vaccines approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) require rigorous safety testing before approval. Both vaccines require two doses. The Moderna vaccine is 94% effective two weeks after receiving the second shot, and the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective one week after the second shot.

See the Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 vaccination website for more information.

Here are the most common questions we've received from policyholders. We'll be adding to this list throughout the pandemic, as we learn more.

 

Can an employer require an employee to get the COVID vaccine?

Employers may require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with some exceptions. Consult Oregon's Bureau of Labor & Industries COVID-19 page for more specifics.

Can an employer require an employee to get the COVID vaccine even though it is only under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and not fully approved like most vaccines?

As it stands now, there is no precedent set that the EUA would change the ability of an employer to require the vaccine. This is being reviewed currently by many attorneys and law firms.

I've decided not to require that my employees get vaccinated. What other steps can I take to minimize the risk of transmission at my workplace?

Employers can continue to require measures already in place, such as wearing masks, physical distancing, encouraging remote work, and other mitigation required by Oregon OSHA. You can also encourage workers to get the vaccine on their own.

Who is getting the vaccine first in Oregon?

Oregon is following the CDC recommendations for prioritizing groups, in a phased approach, for who gets the vaccine. See more on the OHA Vaccine prioritization webpage. It is estimated that approximately 400,000 Oregonians are in the Phase 1a group (1st group to get the vaccine). You can follow the progress of COVID-19 vaccinations on the OHA vaccination dashboard.

Where can employees in Phase 1A get a vaccine?

Check the Oregon Health Authority website to get information on Phase 1A distribution in each county.

If we require the vaccine at our workplace, and the employee has an adverse reaction, is that a compensable workers' comp claim?

When the administration of the vaccine occurs within the course and scope of employment (often either because it's mandated as a condition of employment, controlled by the employer and/or at the employer's expense), treatment or disability associated with adverse effects may be a compensable workers' compensation claim. When the vaccine is voluntary, not controlled by the employer and/or not provided at the employer's expense, it is less likely adverse effects are work-related.

If an employee opts not to take the vaccine, or cannot take it for some reason, and they contract COVID during their work, will that affect coverage of their claim under worker's compensation?

The Oregon workers' compensation system is a "no-fault" system, so if an employee contracts COVID-19 while in the course and scope of work, a choice to not receive the vaccine will not impact whether a workers' compensation claim is compensable.

There is a more contagious variant of the virus. Should this impact our vaccination plan?

It is normal for viruses to mutate. Scientists and health officials are watching for variants closely. Experts agree that current vaccines will still be effective against COVID-19.

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