Ford Motor Co has ordered a dozen freezers to store coronavirus vaccines once they become available to the public, but the company said receiving the jab would be voluntary.
"It's important to Ford because the health and safety of our employees is our top priority," Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and labor communications manager, told FOX Business last week. "We ordered a dozen freezers to make a Covid-19 vaccine available to our employees on a voluntary basis when it becomes available.”
Pfizer, which applied for emergency authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 20 November for its coronavirus vaccine, requires for the jab to be stored in minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Similarly, Moderna and AstraZeneca, two companies that created their own coronavirus vaccine, require cold storage. So the freezers will likely help Ford as it works to distribute the vaccine voluntarily to employees.
Providing the vaccine on a volunteer basis has come at a time when there are discussions about if any employers will require their employees to be vaccinated.
Although having all employees receive a vaccine would be optimal for safety, specifically in work environments like factories and warehouses, employers would likely face pushback for mandating vaccinations.
Kellogg Co was another company considering offering voluntary vaccinations to its employees. A spokesperson with the company told Reuters that they were working with a medical expert and industry trade associations “to make vaccines available to employees on a voluntary basis, in compliance with local and regional regulations.”
It will likely be months before the vast majority of the public will have the opportunity to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Distribution could start as early as mid-December, but healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities will likely be the first recipients.
Until then, employers will turn to federal agencies including the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide guidance on vaccine mandates.
Christine Nazer, an EEOC spokeswoman, told The Washington Post in a statement the EEOC “is actively evaluating how a potential vaccine would interact with employers’ obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the other laws the Commission enforces.”
The EEOC in May said employers were allowed to compel employees to get a coronavirus test before allowing them to return to work, a decision that some experts said might be extended to vaccine mandates.
Previously employees have filed lawsuits against employers for requiring flu vaccinations. But flu vaccines are approved by the FDA, whereas the current coronavirus vaccines would likely only receive emergency authorisation for use in the coming months.
Employers would likely face court battles if they tried to issue a mandate that every employee must be vaccinated.
The quick development of coronavirus vaccines from companies like Pfizer and Moderna has drawn public skepticism, as people express concerns the jabs will be unsafe and lack effectiveness against Covid-19. This comes despite both companies saying their vaccines are 95 per cent effective.
The FDA has used an independent review panel to look over trial data prior to giving any company emergency authorisation for their vaccines. This decision was made in an effort to increase public opinion about these vaccines regarding their safety and efficacy.