Guillain Barre Might Be a Tragic, Although Uncommon, Aspect Impact. Employers Ought to Promote Covid Vaccines Anyway
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious neurological condition that requires hospitalization in almost all victims and for which there is no known cure. With such a description, employers and people in general might be somewhat cautious when it comes to the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on July 12th that Guillain-Barre Syndrome was a rare side effect of this vaccine.
It sounds scary and could lead you not to encourage your employees to get their vaccine but to take a step back. No panic. Employers need to know that.
The scary side effects are rare.
J&J has given 12.8 million doses of its vaccine and 100 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome have been reported. Even so, that’s not quite 0.0008 percent of people who received the vaccine. If you get Covid, your risk of death is much higher.
The FDA determined that this side effect was rare enough that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. As an employer, you should alert people to the FDA’s statement that it continues to state that “the known and potential benefits significantly outweigh the known and potential risks.”
Employers do not bear any financial risk for side effects.
If you encourage or even request an employee to have a Covid-19 vaccination, you don’t have to worry about legal problems if an employee suffers an unfortunate side effect. “There’s no liability,” says labor attorney Jon Hyman, a director at Wickens Herzer Panza, a law firm in Avon, Ohio. “The vaccines are FDA approved for emergency use. Nobody is forced by their employer to get a vaccine … although some employers make the vaccine a condition of employment.” Workers who experience side effects of a vaccine mandated as a working condition could be eligible for damages, but doing so would eliminate liability on the part of the employer, he says.
So as long as your employee compensation policy is up to date, you don’t have to worry about liability.
What to do if an employee experiences a serious side effect?
Some people experience side effects, and if any of your employees are unlucky you should do all you can to help them. There are laws and programs in place to help people.
If you have more than 50 employees and the employee concerned otherwise fulfills the qualifications under the Family and Sick Leave Act, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of protected leave. If your company has fewer than 500 employees, you can choose to participate in the expanded version of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will last until September 30th. This will help your employee generate income.
If you have 15 or more employees, your employee is eligible for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This can also protect the worker who has to take time off to receive the necessary medical treatment.
You should continue to work with the employee to help get everything they need to get them back to work. That is correct, and in most cases it is a legal requirement that you be given sheltered time off.
Keep promoting vaccination.
The only way out of this Covid chaos is herd immunity. This can happen if everyone gets sick or a sufficiently high number of people are vaccinated against Covid-19. There are federal tax credits to pay sick pay for people who get vaccinated. The CDC and FDA recommend vaccination in almost all cases. (Send your reps to speak to their own doctors if they have health concerns.) While Guillain Barre is a tragic side effect, it is incredibly rare and shouldn’t change your current vaccination guidelines.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.