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COVID-19 vaccine: Your legal questions answered

Can your employer require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine? What about schools? What about requiring masks? We got answers from a local legal expert.

CLEVELAND — The very first COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Cleveland and other parts of Ohio.

At this time, Governor DeWine has said that the first doses will go to front line workers and people who are most vulnerable to the virus first. Even after the vaccines are rolled out to everyone, health officials say we will need to continue to wear masks for awhile to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.

3News talked to local attorney Daniel Karon about the legalities of vaccines and face coverings.

Karon says it’s important that we all remain vigilant when it comes to things like mask-wearing and social-distancing, despite the vaccine being in the state.

“It's kind of like being in a 50-yard dash and we're at yard 40, with 10 to go. You don't let up. You keep doing what you need to do. What we all need to do short of being vaccinated, is to wear our masks.”

That leads to a common question: Is it legal for the government and private businesses to require people to wear a mask? Karon says, 'yes,' it is perfectly legal and not unconstitutional.

“Governments can make you wear a mask if that is is for sake of protecting your neighbor. You do not have a constitutional right to get your next-door neighbor sick.”

3News also asked whether it's legal for employers and schools to require the vaccine.

Again, the short answer is 'yes.'

“The answer is yes, unless however there's certain exemptions at play, such as your health, such as religious reasons,” says Karon.

“Folks in Ohio and most other states are what are called ‘at-will employees,’ which means you can get fired for no cause, whatever your employer wants, so long as it's not an illegal reason like a protected class.”

When it comes to schools, things get a little tricky. So far, third phase vaccine trials haven’t applied to anyone age 17 or younger.

For colleges, the rules remain to be seen.

Karon thinks it's likely colleges will require the COVID-19 vaccine for students, just as many already require other immunizations.

Karon says one of his goals as an attorney is to make justice more accessible to people who don’t know, can’t find, or can’t pay for lawyers.

He says his website offers insight into common legal problems and describe pitfalls in a way that everyone can understand.

You can find out more information at yourloveablelawyer.com.