Cedarwood senior living community resident Yvonne Bolingbroke, center, chats with Walgreens pharmacists Matthew Sanders, left, and Mckayla Poulsen, right, before she received her COVID-19 vaccination at Cedarwood in Sandy on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. A Utah bill would prohibit employers from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, except those in health care settings where a vaccine is required for their work. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah bill that would prohibit private businesses from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine received a Senate committee’s OK after a heated debate on Tuesday.
“This is a pro-choice bill, in a way we don’t usually think about pro-choice,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine.
SB208 would ban employers from requiring employees, prospective employees or blood relatives of employees or prospective employees to accept or decline any medical procedure. The bill would make employers that violate the law liable “for any and all injury and damage caused by the employer’s violation.”
“I feel really strongly that each individual, we have a right to direct our lives in ways that we see fit. And we make not-so-good decisions sometimes, other times we make really good decisions,” Kennedy, a medical doctor, told members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
The bill — which Kennedy said he’s proposing in the wake of frustration about health mandates put in place during the pandemic — prompted a heated debate between some who pleaded for personal choice and others who decried potentially taking away businesses’ abilities to protect employees and customers.
Under the bill, the only employees who could be required to get vaccinations are those at health care facilities or those in positions within the health care industry in which they face a significant risk of exposure to bodily fluids or communicable disease.
Government employers could require employees to get the vaccine if they are acting in a public health or medical setting and are required to receive a vaccine to perform their duties and responsibilities, according to the bill.
A ‘Pandora’s box’ of mandates?
Dr. James Zebrack, a physician at St. Mark’s Hospital in Millcreek who helped Kennedy present the bill, said that patients should have freedom to make health care choices for themselves. There are many reasons for people to choose not to receive vaccines — some have already been infected by the virus, some face “very low risk” from the disease, and some have allergies or autoimmune disorders.
“Currently the science of vaccines has not been around long enough to really know the long-term consequences. There’s a lot of fear around the vaccines in particular and it will take time to figure out what the actual risk-benefit is for each individual,” Zebrack said.
Phil Allred, an electrician, said he was working at one of Utah’s largest construction job sites when COVID-19 restrictions first hit. The largest contractor on the job wanted to establish its own protocols, he said, and the company “went above and beyond.”
He said …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News
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