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Miami school says they won't employ people who get COVID-19 vaccinations, citing vaccine misinformation

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A Miami private school has told teachers and employees not to get COVID-19 vaccines, citing false information and unsubstantiated anti-vaccination theories. The school said it is their policy not to employ anyone who has taken what it called the "experimental" COVID-19 injection.

CBS Miami obtained a copy of an email sent to parents from Centner Academy on Monday. The school said until further notice, it is asking any employee who has not yet received COVID-19 vaccines to wait to do so until the end of the school year. 

"We also recommended that all faculty and staff hold off on taking the injection until there is further research available on whether this experimental drug is impacting unvaccinated individuals," the email reads. "It is our policy, to the extent possible, not to employ anyone who has taken the experimental COVID-19 injection until further information is known."

The Centner Academy email offers no scientific evidence or authority to support the claims made. The school, which is run by Leila and David Centner, opened in September 2020, according to CBS Miami. 

The email to parents gained nationwide attention on Monday, prompting the United Teachers of Dade to release a statement.

"As shamefully seen by the actions of the illegally run and uncertified Centner Academy, these schools not only teach misinformation and peddle propaganda, they punish teachers who try to protect themselves and their families," the statement obtained by CBS Miami, reads. "We are horrified by the unsafe conditions and labor violations that colleagues at schools such as this one have to endure due to lack of union representation and contract rights."

One teacher from Centner Academy has resigned, but it is not clear if it as a result of the school's vaccine policy, CBS Miami reports.

As vaccines become more readily available, the legality of employers requiring vaccinations for employees has come into question – rather than the other way around. 

"Generally speaking, employers are free to require safety measures like vaccination with exceptions for certain employees," Aaron Goldstein, a labor and employment partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, told CBS News last year. "So the answer is likely to be yes, with an asterisk."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission already allows companies to require employees to be vaccinated for the flu.

In regards to the legality of an employer prohibiting vaccinations, employment lawyer Carter Sox with Gallup Auerbach told CBS Miami that in this case, it would be legal to fire an employee for getting vaccinated.

"This is a private school. It's not a public school," said Sox. "So, generally a private employer in Florida can fire someone for any reason or no reason at all." However, a fired employee could fight the decision, he said. 

"If a teacher says they have a medical condition, and it discriminates against their right to get the vaccine," Sox said.

The school's email explains the "many unknown variables" that contributed to their decision to prohibit vaccines. However, their claims are unfounded and come from vaccine misinformation. 

Centner Academy incorrectly claims: "Tens of thousands of women all over the world have recently been reporting adverse reproductive issues from being in close proximity with those who have received any one of the COVID-19 injections."

These claims have not be substantiated by any expert or any authority. According to Henry Ford Health System, "There is no evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause early pregnancy loss or fertility problems in women or men."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say "any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be offered to people who are pregnant or breastfeeding." 

"If you have questions about getting vaccinated, a conversation with your healthcare provider might help, but is not required," the agency says.

According to the CDC, people who receive the vaccine "may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection."

"These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects," the CDC says. 

Vaccines by three companies — Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — have been approved for use in the U.S. The CDC says there are some common probable side effects, including tiredness, nausea and headache as well as redness and swelling of the arm.

While use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was temporarily paused as the Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts, the CDC and FDA recommended the vaccine be resumed last week. There have been six reported clots among the 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson shots administered.

Dr. Aileen Marty, Florida International University's infectious disease specialist, told CBS Miami the email from Centner Academy is "heartbreaking" and she is devastated because there is no basis in science for any of the misinformation being put out by the school.

In a statement to CBS Miami, Centner Academy reiterated what was in the email to parents, stating: "We're doing what we think is in the best interest of the children because children shouldn't be around teachers who are vaccinated."

Adolescents 16 and older are approved to receive the Pfizer vaccine and people 18 and older are approved to receive Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, according to the CDC. The effectiveness of the vaccines in young children is still being tested, but there is no substantiated information that says children should not be around adults who have been vaccinated. 

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