Legal and medical experts weigh in on Biden administration's plan to require vaccinations

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A prominent Milwaukee labor attorney expects legal challenges to the Biden administration's plans to require employers require vaccines. But he says the administration is using every tool at its disposal to get past the pandemic.

Erik Eisenmann says the government cannot mandate people get vaccinated, but can mandate companies only employ vaccinated people. Eisenmann is a partner and chair of Husch Blackwell’s Labor & Employment practice group. He says, "We will expect to see immediate legal action seeking to enjoin that rule."

Eisenmann says there are three key components of the president's announcement, but the one affecting private employers will likely attract the most attention. Whenever OSHA issues the order, employees will have 75 days to comply. "If they fail to do so within that period of time, they will be subject to 'progressive discipline' is what the order says." That could amount to $14,000 fines per violation. But no such rule is in effect yet. Companies must first wait to see what OSHA implements.

UW Health's Dr. Jeffrey Pothof called Thursday's announcement "tremendously good news". He says health care workers are burned out, adding it's difficult to keep giving, knowing there are tools available to stop it. "That means the quicker life gets back to normal, that means less people in hospitals, less people dying, more businesses being successful, more people being able to do the things they want to do."

Dr. Pothof says any questions about vaccine safety have already been answered, which President Biden echoed Thursday when he appealed directly to unvaccinated people. "What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We've made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot."

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, but said in a statement it worries the mandate "is a blunt instrument that will create a significant regulatory and logistical burden for businesses."

Eisenmann says it's a clear decision to raise the stakes, as merely encouraging vaccination has not worked. "What's clear from the President's speech today and the executive order, is that the administration does not feel like that has been sufficiently effective."

Eisenmann says there is legal precedence for a private employer to require employees to be vaccinated. But he says what we have not seen before is the federal government get directly involved in the issue.

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