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Facebook employees won't be required to get COVID-19 vaccine to return to office

The social network says employees will still have the option to work remotely at least until July 2021.

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The coronavirus pandemic has fueled remote work including for tech companies such as Facebook.

Image by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Facebook said Thursday that CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees he doesn't think it will be necessary to require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to the office. Zuckerberg also expressed confidence in the vaccine, saying he looks forward to getting one himself.

"Once we return to the office, we will have a number of protocols in place that we expect to include testing, social distancing, wearing masks and other best practices. We continue to work with many experts to define a plan that prioritizes everyone's health and safety," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

Zuckerberg's remarks, which were reported earlier by The Daily Beast, come as the social media giant has been facing more pressure to crack down on misinformation including about COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. In December, Facebook vowed to remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines. At the same time, content moderators who contract with Facebook have raised concerns about returning to an office during the pandemic.

With COVID-19 vaccines expected to be widely available to the American public by the middle of 2021, some employers will have to decide whether to require workers to get vaccinated before returning to the office. Vaccination requirements could vary based on workplace and will likely be mandatory in hospitals and other high-risk environments, experts told CBS.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, has said it's unlikely the federal government will mandate a vaccine for the general public but has encouraged vaccination. On Thursday, an advisory panel of the US Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the US.

Facebook has more than 56,650 workers worldwide. Employees will have the option to work remotely until at least July 2021 and the company doesn't expect US offices to open before the vaccine is widely available, a Facebook spokeswoman said. 

It's unclear if other tech companies will require employees to get vaccinated before they return to the office. Apple, Google and Amazon didn't immediately respond to questions about their plans. Twitter declined to comment.