'Ethically, they are obligated': Stanford professor says it's OK to require COVID vaccine at work

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In another attempt to slow the surge of COVID cases, San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara Counties urged all employers Thursday to require COVID vaccines.

RELATED: 3 Bay Area counties urge employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

Some, like Laurie Thomas have already made it a mandate.

"Everybody is fully vaccinated and we won't hire unless we can see proof of vaccine," Thomas said.

Thomas is the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and owner of Terzo and Rose's Cafe in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood. All 65 of her restaurant employees were fully vaccinated by the end of April. "We took two months, we focused on education. But yes, had some tearful conversations, we had people that had misperceptions."

RELATED: All of San Francisco's city workers will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine

There are two types of exemptions for any vaccine requirement - medical and religious - but those are rare.

"This disease is evolving in a way to make it more deadly and more contagious," said David Magnus, the director for the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, who continued, "for diseases like that, public health measures trump individual liberty, and we often take take actions to require that people get vaccinated."

Magnus says because the COVID vaccine is now accessible to everyone in the U.S. it is ethical to require it and there is precedent. "We do that with measles vaccines, we do that with patients with tuberculosis, who are unwilling to get medical treatment for their conditions, we actually incarcerate them against their wishes on the grounds of public health."

RELATED: Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in US are now among people who weren't vaccinated

"So if there's no genuine religious objection, no medical reason not to be vaccinated, and no economic hardship for being vaccinated, there really is absolutely no good reason why somebody shouldn't be vaccinated. Ethically, they are obligated to do this, obligated to themselves, to their families, to their communities, they should be vaccinated. So enforcement of that is really a way of protecting the entire community. Put it another way, if everybody in the country had been vaccinated COVID would now be a thing of the past instead of a looming new crisis on the horizon," Magnus said.

The key according to Magnus is to help employees - with money, time, and education... which is exactly what Thomas did.

"We paid sick pay, we helped facilitate schedules, we drove them to Walgreens," said Thomas of working with all her employees to make sure they were comfortable getting vaccinated. "We did a lot of supportive work that way to make it happen"

Thomas says she didn't lose one employee over her COVID vaccine requirement.



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