As businesses begin to reopen and resume operations after the pandemic, there are discussions surrounding possible vaccine passports and the concerns protecting individuals’ personal health information. COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more available within the country and more Americans feel safe to resume their normal lives. Many states and businesses are contemplating the idea of making vaccine passports a requirement for travel and large events. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) was created to protect personal health information. As other countries are beginning to require proof of vaccination, many are contemplating whether vaccine passports are permitted by HIPAA or if the requirement will actually violate the federal health privacy law.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released revised guidelines regarding physical distancing in K-12 schools. Originally, the CDC recommended that students should stay six feet away from each other in a classroom with mask but now recommends at least three feet between students in classrooms. These new guidelines will encourage more schools to return to the classroom around the nation.
Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced a scheduled meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (“VRBPAC”) to discuss the request for emergency use authorization (“EUA”) for a COVID-19 vaccine from Janssen Biotech Inc. The FDA has just under three weeks to complete its report before the VRBPAC’s meeting to make its recommendation on the vaccine. The review process may be more challenging than the past two reviews for Pfizer and Moderna due to the composition differences and effectiveness.
As COVID-19 is back on the rise throughout the United States and various vaccine trials are occurring, employers are beginning to consider COVID-19 vaccine mandates for all their employees. While no vaccine has been approved yet, predictions point to a possible release by the end of the year. The vaccine is not expected to be readily available until mid-2021 for the general public, which makes it difficult for most employers to mandate vaccination at least until 2021. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has yet to release guidance on COVID-19 vaccine so it is best to consider guidelines discussing flu vaccines for now. Although there are necessary accommodations due to federal legislation, vaccine programs are permissible.
On September 16, The Big Ten conference announced the reversal of the decision to postpone fall sports and will resume football the week of Oct. 23rd. On that same day, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced elementary and high school football teams will still not return for the fall. With football being a contact sport, the risk of spreading COVID-19 is very high. There are hopes for Illinois high school football to return in the spring but as of now, there are not enough resources to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and local authorities’ guidelines.
During February 2020, COVID-19 hit the United States and disrupted many lives all throughout the country. Many states shut down most businesses, stores, and restaurants except for all essential services. By March, schools were forced to create unconventional forms of teaching methods for the remainder of the school year such as e-learning and sending students lesson packets for the week. As the school year approaches, many school districts are still determining their instruction mode for the upcoming school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided guidelines to reopening schools and advised school districts to work closely with local and state health officials to determine the best practices for reopening.