FAQ: EXEMPTIONS TO COVID-19 VACCINATION

You have questions about vaccine exemptions -- we have some answers.

First, let’s talk about medical exemptions.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, all employers and colleges are required to offer a medical exemption to a vaccine mandate.  Many employers and colleges require that a medical exemption align with the CDC contraindications or precautions to the vaccine at issue.  This means that for a valid medical exemption to the Covid 19 vaccines, a person would typically have to have a prior dose and experienced an allergic reaction to a component in the vaccines or had a previous immediate allergic reaction to any other vaccine or injectable therapy. The employer or college can and often will request medical records to support a medical exemption request. The records will likely be scrutinized by a physician for the employer or college.  So unless you had a prior allergic reaction to a vaccine or component, it is typically extremely difficult to get a medical exemption, and especially so for COVID-19.

On the other hand, religious exemptions are far easier to obtain.

Most employers and universities will accept a religious exemption to vaccination.  This is because federal law requires employers to not discriminate on the basis of religion and most states have similar laws for universities.

In most instances, the employer or college can require information regarding the religious and beliefs and practices and why they prohibit vaccination.  If this information isn’t provided, the exemption is often denied.  Some employers and colleges will even go as far as interviewing the person regarding their beliefs.  This is why it is important to carefully explain your religious beliefs in a statement to your employer or university when seeking a religious exemption.  Your statement so be sure to explain why receiving the specific vaccine violates your personal religious beliefs.

Some of you might ask, the organized religion to which I belong does not appear to have a general policy against vaccination.  Well, that is fine because when requesting a religious exemption, you do not need to belong to a specific organized religion, or any organized religion for that matter.  If the person is affiliated with a recognized religion, the religion itself does not need to be opposed to vaccination.  It is the personal religious convictions of the individual that matter.  The religious beliefs must be personal and deeply held by the person requesting the exemption.

We should mention that even with an approved religious exemption, the employer or college can and often will enforce what they deem safety protocols for the unvaccinated, even those with an exemption.  These protocols mustbe reasonable and designed to limit or prevent transmission of the virus.  Protocols will often include masking, testing, and social distancing, even though we know the science on whether these work is at best questionable.  The reasonableness of the protocols depends on the circumstances for each person, such as the job description, vaccination rate for coworkers, and rate of disease.  If an employer reasonably determines that no safety protocols are available, it may be justified in refusing to accommodate the religious exemption request.

And finally, what about those that have had COVID-19.  On this point, the CDC has taken the position that proof of antibodies have no value for determining whether a person can become reinfected or transmit the virus.  Because of this, most universities and employers will not accept proof of antibodies for avoiding the vaccine or avoiding safety protocols.  However, the CDC has not taken this position for T cell immunity -- at least not yet.  So, a person can make the argument that T cell immunity is as good or better than the vaccine.

Well, that is a quick summary of what we know about exemptions from vaccination and hopefully provides some helpful information.  But we are not doctors or lawyers, so if you need any help with an exemption, be sure to contact a competent professional.

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