January 13, 2021

Indiana Bill Seeks To Let Workers Opt Out Of Employer-Mandated Vaccines

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
A worker sprays down a forklift in an Elkhart factory in accordance with the company's COVID-19 safety standards.  - Justin Hicks/IPB News

A worker sprays down a forklift in an Elkhart factory in accordance with the company's COVID-19 safety standards.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

A bill that would give Hoosier workers the right to refuse employer-mandated vaccines had its first hearing in a committee Wednesday morning. It would go further than current federal laws and excuse workers based on their conscience.

Currently, federal laws allow employers to have mandatory vaccine policies but workers can opt out if they have a medical disability or sincerely held religious belief. However, if an employer determines that creates a threat to others, it can "exclude" that employee from the workplace. 

Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), author of the bill, said it goes a step further and exempts employees from vaccination based on personal choice.

“The word 'conscience' is the essence of the bill,” Sen. Kruse said. “That’s the additional part that is not in existing law.”

Many testified in support of the bill, arguing that it would protect their personal liberties and civil rights.

"God gave me free will and I don't intend to let anybody take that away from me," said Ashely Grogg, a health care worker testifying on behalf of Hoosiers for Medical Liberty. 

READ MORE: How Will Indiana Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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However business groups, including the Indiana Chamber and an Indiana University researcher testified against it, said it would infringe on workplace safety laws and could create easily preventable disease outbreaks in the future. 

Others in opposition, like Patrick Glew of the Indiana Immunization Coalition, expressed concern that the language went far beyond COVID-19 vaccinations and would help people avoid getting more common vaccines.

"We're very concerned about this bill," Glew said. "Our main concern is that it applies to all vaccines in all contexts." 

The committee did not take a vote on the bill, or amendments proposed by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) that would remove the word 'conscience.'

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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