Travel vaccination warrants are legal in the United States – and more are likely to come

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Vaccination warrants spilled over into the U.S. travel arena last winter, gained momentum in the spring, and peaked in the summer.

Vaccines are now needed to eat in cafes in France, to see a Broadway show in New York and soon, to fly commercially to Canada.

While warrants were expected for international cruises and travel, the pace and breadth of business they now cover – from booking group tours to staying in hotels – has surprised industry experts.

“It has been interesting to watch the striking acceleration in vaccination mandates,” said Harry Nelson, founder of the Nelson Hardiman healthcare law firm.

He said that while the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the United States Food and Drug Administration last month has sparked some mandates, they are also “being prompted by growing public opinion in favor of the drug. majority of vaccinated “.

Are vaccination mandates legal?

Yes, said Lawrence O. Gostin, professor at Georgetown Law and faculty director at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

“Businesses have all the power to demand reasonable safety standards for customers,” he told TUSEN. “Just as many companies have required masking, they may also ask for proof of vaccination.”

That’s right, whether the warrants come from private businesses or government-owned attractions, such as the Grand Canyon or visits to the White House, he said.

We believed it was the right thing to do, and sometimes doing the right thing is difficult.

Kelly sanders

Senior Vice President of Operations, Highgate Hawaii

“For some high-risk businesses, such as cruise lines and hotels, it is in their economic best interests to make their customers feel safe – they have every right to do so,” said Gostin. “Likewise, President Biden, who oversees federal properties, may require proof of vaccination to enter… national parks and federal buildings.”

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Nelson agrees, adding that there is a long history of courts upholding vaccination warrants, although these have mostly been in the context of educational requirements.

“I expect that, for the most part, the vaccine mandates will be met,” he said.

Vaccine exemptions

The next big debate could be the diluting effect that vaccine exemptions can have on immunization mandates.

Gostin said public and private companies “probably have to allow both medical and religious exemptions,” but they can be “narrow and difficult to obtain.”

United Airlines appears to be taking this approach. Staff with religious exemptions from the airline’s recently announced workforce vaccination mandate will be placed on temporary unpaid leave starting next month.

Unvaccinated tourists to New York can walk the streets near Broadway, but they cannot attend shows without an exemption.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The government has an “easy case” for denying religious exemptions for infectious disease vaccines, wrote Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, in an article published on the website last week. Australian information The Conversation.

“Even when religious objections are sincere, the government has a compelling interest in ignoring them and insisting that everyone be vaccinated,” he wrote. “And that nullifies any claim under state or federal constitutions or religious freedom legislation.”

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As to how far the challenges of vaccination mandates can go, Laycock wrote: “Unless the governments mandating vaccines defend their rules or the Supreme Court changes the law, the answer is probably ‘Not far.’ . “

Nelson said he believed a majority in the U.S. Supreme Court would welcome the opportunity to articulate broader personal religious freedoms if the opportunity presented itself.

And after?

Expect more companies to announce vaccination warrants, Nelson said, especially after FDA approval of vaccines for children aged 5 to 12, and possibly even younger ones.

Hotels have been slow to get into the fray over the vaccine mandate, but that is starting to change. Elite Island Resorts, which operates nine resorts in the Caribbean, and Highgate Hawaii, which operates seven hotels in Hawaii, have both announced mandatory vaccination policies, like others.

“We believed it was the right thing to do, and sometimes doing the right thing is difficult,” said Kelly Sanders, senior vice president of operations for Highgate Hawaii. “I expect that other (hotels) will follow eventually.”

Starting October 15, guests 12 years of age and older must be vaccinated to stay at Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach in Highgate Hawaii.

Courtesy of ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach

Flights could be next, if airlines follow the lead of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who indicated earlier this month that passengers will need to be vaccinated on his international flights.

US officials are debating whether to require vaccinations to fly both nationally and internationally, as the Washington Post reported last week. Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the White House, said this month he would likely support a vaccination warrant for air travel.

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Georgetown’s Gostin said he could predict President Biden would issue a vaccine warrant for interstate or international travel, similar to the one his administration announced earlier this week for foreigners traveling to the United States.

“But the airlines themselves could also define this requirement,” he said.

To date, no major US airline has announced such a policy.

Vaccine passports

So-called “vaccine passports” could also be on the horizon, Nelson said, as interest increases in reliable proof of vaccine status.

“I think we’re going to see them across the hospitality and entertainment industry,” he said.

Starting September 13, guests staying at the Equinox Hotel in New York City must be vaccinated.

Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The White House last April ruled out plans to create a federal vaccine passport, but Nelson said he believed they were more likely to appear in “blue” states given “the tendency to the hostility of the “red” states towards the concept “.

“I have the impression that the government is counting on the fact that the more ambivalent and reluctant people are vaccinated, the greater the public pressure will be,” he said. “New measures, coupled with fear of hospitalizations and death rates among the unvaccinated, should lead to even more support for more restrictions. “

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