Bill that would bar Indiana employers from requiring vaccinations sparks heated debate

Indiana Statehouse (IBJ file photo)

A bill that would prohibit Indiana employers from requiring workers to get immunizations against COVID-19 or any other disease generated heated discussion Wednesday morning, reviving a debate over where to draw the line between public health and personal freedom.

The Indiana Senate Pensions and Labor Committee heard more than 90 minutes of testimony but did not take a vote in order to allow more people to submit written testimony.

The measure, Senate Bill 74, would allow workers to decline any immunizations for medical, religious or personal reasons. The measure, introduced by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, would allow workers to sue an employer that require immunizations as a condition of employment.

Dozens of people from across the state packed into a committee hearing to testify, many of them in support of a bill they said was necessary to protect their personal freedom.

Leah Wilson, executive director of Stand for Health Freedom, a not-for-profit dedicated to protecting parental rights, said any vaccination mandate would be “immoral and unethical.”

“I’m asking you to stand up and protect our civil rights,” she said.

Ashley Grogg, a nurse and founder of Hoosiers for Medical Liberty, said people should be able to decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated.

“God gave me free will and I don’t intend for anyone to take that away from me,” she said.

Micah Beckwith of the Indiana Family Institute said the bill is about protecting personal liberties of people who don’t want to get vaccinated without consent.

“If you disagree with the medical industry, you’re labeled as evil or a nut job,” he said.

But several health and business organizations, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, testified against the bill. They said it could make workplaces unsafe, including hospitals and nursing homes, where people work closely together, and people’s immunization systems are sometimes at risk.

“We have a duty to provide a safe workplace for our employees,” said Mike Ripley, the chamber’s vice president for health care and employment law.

Ross Silverman, a professor of public health and law at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, said employers sometimes need “necessary tools to protect society.”

He said federal law already allows certain exemptions from vaccination mandates, although employers can make a case to override the exemption if they feel it would make a direct threat to safety or cause undue burden on other employees.

Some senators suggested that vaccinations are necessary to protect public health.

“We don’t have polio and smallpox today,” said Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage. “There was a time we did and we needed to vaccinate a lot of people to stop those diseases.”

Chairman Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, cut off debate for the sake of time with more than 50 people yet to testify.

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24 thoughts on “Bill that would bar Indiana employers from requiring vaccinations sparks heated debate

  1. ““If you disagree with the medical industry, you’re labeled as evil or a nut job,” he said.”

    Yes, generally, refuting centuries of medical progress for no good reason does make others question your judgement…

    If people want to work in healthcare and not get vaccinated, they should choose another field to work in. What’s next, allowing medical professionals to skip washing their hands before a procedure because of their personal freedom?

  2. “God gave me free will and I don’t intend for anyone to take that away from me,” she said. So, employers should have the same rights, correct? That is, not to employ someone who could bring disease to their workforce? So, we’re all agreed then.

  3. In response to Leah Wilson, it is also immoral and unethical for one individual to inflict societal harm. If an individual wants to practice personal freedoms, then they should also accept that society can place restrictions upon them to prevent societal harm. It cannot work in only one direction.

    As an ultimate example, killing someone may be a personal freedom but you will be restricted to jail to prevent further societal harm. Not taking a vaccine is not too far akin from that if you pass a disease along to someone else but because of your practice of personal freedom, that disease kills them.

    When you live in society, as we all do, one has to accept some societal restrictions for the greater good. That is the moral and ethical choice.

    1. However, this also assumes the person the virus was passed to was not vaccinated or the vaccine was not effective. If the person who contracted the virus was not vaccinated, they are just as much (if not more) at fault for contracting it. If the vaccine was not effective for the one who contracted it, then it cold also not be effective for the one who passed it along.

      Personal freedom allows individuals to decide the risk they are willing to take. Taking a vaccine is therefore not about the risk of passing along to others as much as it is protecting one’s self.

  4. As an employer of multiple persons I will not be party to usurp the civil liberties of individuals by demanding they do anything that they can conscientiously object to. Nor would i contribute to this ‘nanny’ state proliferation that the national even state seeks to impose on us. People need to wake up and see where this all goes past tomorrow.

    1. Will you feel the same way when one of your multiple employees puts you in the hospital by giving you COVID-19?

    2. Before you worry about tomorrow, ask someone who lost a loved one to polio or measles about yesterday.

    3. Jeffrey R – Where it goes is that people won’t patronize your business if they find out you don’t require your employees to take sensible precautions to protect your customers. How about you do us all a favor and let us know the name of your business so we can avoid it. I’m sure you’ll get Trumpsters banging down the door, **so to speak** , to support your idiotic approach.

    4. Bring me the Trumpsters then. I can deal with people that have common sense. Something that has been sorely lacking of late

  5. If the vaccine works, why are you worrying about a non-vaccinated employee bringing the virus in? Isn’t the vaccine protecting you? Or, are you saying the vaccine doesn’t work, in which case should an employer force you to risk your health to get it?

    1. We’re worried because 70-90% of the country needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity to occur. If herd immunity isn’t achieved, the virus can continue to spread and mutate. Depending on how it mutates, it could make current vaccinations worthless.

    2. Also, some people can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons, based on actual science not just a preference. Those folks rely on everyone else being vaccinated to keep them safe as well.

    3. Wesley, the virus can mutate regardless of whether herd immunity is achieved–through vaccine or through natural transmission. They just tend to do this.

  6. In the same way that “God gave me free will and I don’t intend for anyone to take that away from me,” my employer and my school, has the right to make the workplace or the school safe for ALL of the people there. If someone makes a choice to not protect themselves and as a potential result, other people, then the employer or school should have a choice to bar that potentially dangerous person.

  7. To the daily comments of Wes and Joe –

    I work in healthcare and my personal view given my age and risk factors is not to get vaccinated. Nor will I demand any of my employees receive a vaccine against their will/view.

    If facilities mandate it for entry or surgery (which I know they won’t at this stage unlike the influenza vaccine which has a long history of safety regardless of annual effectiveness) there may be a discussion.

    Forcing constituents to follow arbitrary rules is the reason for all this chaos (310 days to slow the curve I guess) given complete lack of transparency in the medical data.

    The only benefit I have is receiving daily data by each hospital which is not shared with the public.

    And that is one of the many issues. Biased data. Media hype.

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