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A look at challenges businesses could face if mandating vaccines

While they say mandatory vaccinations could help employees feel safer, it could also lead some to leave.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Whether or not to require vaccinations is a decision businesses are considering more seriously with the Pfizer brand vaccine now FDA approved. On Thursday, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce held a meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the decision.

While labor law attorneys say mandatory vaccinations could help employees feel safer, it could also lead some to leave.

"For many employers, if they adopt a mandate, they risk losing 10 or 20 percent of their workforce that feels strongly about getting or not getting vaccinated," David Dubberly, an attorney with Nexsen Pruet, said.

RELATED: FDA gives full approval to Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Katherine Dudley Helms, a lawyer with Ogletree Deakins, said medical or religious reasons could be a possible exemption for some employees. As more businesses move to require the vaccinations, the requests for a religious exemption are pouring in.

“A different employer that we have dealt with that also has several thousand employees, when they went to the mandatory vaccinations, got 2,000 requests for religious exemptions; that’s incredible," Helms said.

Others face protests and walk outs, something Michael Carrouth with Fisher Phillips said employers should plan for.

RELATED: Can you be fired for not following an employer vaccine mandate in SC?

"The law protects their ability to withhold the labor, walk off the job in those contexts, but when they do that, they are subject to being replaced," Carrouth said.

Some are also considering a hybrid model with mandatory vaccines or regular COVID-19 testing.

Regardless of the decision, the experts said the best advice for businesses is that they're open with employees and forthcoming with information about their decisions.

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