Divorce, Family Law and Employment Update: Roll Up Your Sleeve (COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccines and Iowa Law)

01.25.2021

This DSM Divorce Lawyer newsletter combines Whitfield & Eddy Law’s divorce and family law practice group with attorney Kay Oskvig in our labor and employment law practice group. This is due to the increased concerns regarding vaccinations in general and Iowa law.

Iowa law requires parents to vaccinate their children

Regardless of whether children will attend public school, Iowa Code Section 139A.8 generally commands parents ensure children residing within Iowa receive certain vaccinations. These include immunizations against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, rubeola, rubella, and varicella. If the children attend a licensed child care center or public school, Iowa Code Section 139A.8 generally commands additional vaccinations, including immunization against haemophilus influenza, invasive pneumococcal disease, hepatitis B, and meningococcal disease.

There are two exemptions to vaccine requirements in Iowa under Iowa Code Section 139A.8

First, if a physician licensed in Iowa submits a signed statement that attests the immunization(s) would be injurious to the health and well-being of the child or any member of the child’s family, the child does not need vaccinated. Second, if a child’s parent or legal guardian submits a signed affidavit that states the immunization(s) conflicts with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious denomination which the parent belongs or adheres, the child does not need vaccinated.

Can the government require me to get vaccinated

The largest questions family law and employment law attorneys now face is whether the government or a private employer can compel individuals to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. For children, the answer is largely unknown at this time because the Food and Drug Administration has not issued an Emergency Use or other authorization for children under age 16. At this time, a COVID-19 vaccine is not required for children attending public school and parents are not required to attest whether their children will receive the vaccine. Parents are not required to receive immunizations for child custody or visitation purposes. 

Employers may require their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

For employees and employers, the answer is much different. Many Iowa businesses and nonprofit organizations have already determined whether to (a) require employee vaccinations, (b) offer the vaccine on-site (similar to a flu shot clinic), and/or (c) request employees provide proof of vaccination or a legally sufficient waiver. At this time, Iowa law does not mandate any specific group receive the vaccine. State and federal laws could change in the next several months. The Iowa Legislature recently convened, and if you have questions or concerns about pending legislation, click to contact your Iowa legislators. Parents may be eligible for paid leave from their employer or the government if they need to take time off to receive or recuperate from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. For parents who are concerned that an employer-mandated vaccination program would negatively impact their health or violate sincerely held religious believes, the parent may contact their healthcare provider, employer’s human resources representative, or attorney.

For more information, contact Tyler Coe or Kay Oskvig

If this month’s topic interests you, reach out to Tyler by phone at 515-246-5523, click to email Tyler, or call Kay Oskvig at 515-288-6041 or click to email Kay. If you would like to subscribe to receive the newsletter click this link and enter your email.

Clark Butler, J.D. candidate at Drake University Law School and law clerk with Whitfield & Eddy Law, provided research for this month’s newsletter. Clark’s post-law school interests include divorce and family law with Whitfield & Eddy Law in Des Moines, Iowa.

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