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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Medical or religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccine mandates are rare; local docs explain why

Posted at 7:11 AM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 07:11:53-04

(WSYM) — The amount of businesses that are requiring the COVID-19 vaccine continues to grow, and it comes on the heels of President Joe Biden announcing a federal vaccine mandate.

That mandate is being met by people with personal, medical or religious objections. But what makes for a valid exemption for the mandate?

The first step is to find out if you qualify for a medical exemption. You'll have to talk with your primary care physician to see.

A doctor we spoke with said any potential adverse reaction to the vaccine may not be known until after the first shot, even though, she said, it's rare.

Ahead of the federal mandate, Henry Ford Health System announced its own workforce vaccine requirement in June. On Monday, the COO announced 98% of its staff are in compliance.

We're told that less than 1% received or are in the process of receiving a medical or religious exemption, meaning they don't have to get vaccinated. Instead, they'll be tested at least once a week.

"The medical exemptions were for a defined set of medical conditions," Bob Riney, the CEO of the health system, said.

For the religious exemption, Riney said the decision to grant one is left to a multidisciplinary team that reviews each request.

For metro Detroit workers concerned about getting the shot under the federal mandate, what makes for a valid medical exemption?

"We've now seen them go into billions of arms worldwide and it seems like there's actually very, very few medical exemptions and almost none that would have to do with a current existing medical problem," Dr. Payal Patal, a UM infectious disease specialist, said.

That includes those who are immunocompromised.

"In fact, if you have a medical problem like cancer or blood pressure or diabetes, it actually would do you better to get vaccinated than not because it would protect you from the infection and there doesn't seem to be any risks or adverse effect from getting vaccinated," she said.

Patel said virtually everyone is eligible for the first shot and reactions are rare. But, if one happens, your doctor can advise on a second dose.

The bottom line, the amount of evidence at hand favors getting the shot.

Patel said for those who are immunocompromised, the only potential issue with the vaccine is that it may not be as effective. Because of a weaker immune system, a booster shot may then be needed.