Republican Lawmakers Lobby to Make Vaccine Denial a Civil Rights Issue

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Republican lawmakers in the United States are pushing forward bills banning vaccination warrants in a bid to give refusal to have a Covid-19 vaccine the same kind of legal protections that often surround issues of gender, religion and race.

Many Republican states are introducing bills banning vaccination warrants in state offices, schools, and workplaces, even though vaccination warrants are not common among employers. They also come as vaccine rollout in the United States has slowed dramatically, even as the most contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly, especially among unvaccinated people.

“It’s sort of a solution to finding a problem,” said Lowell Pearson, managing partner at Husch Blackwell, a company that tracks invoices. “We don’t really see a broad sense that employers require vaccines in offices, factories and places like that. “

Montana passed a bill in April that banned employers from requiring vaccinations to get a job. Arizona has pending legislation that would exempt people from receiving a vaccine if the vaccination has not been fully approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). South Carolina has introduced a bill in the Senate that prohibits employers from firing, demoting, and suspending unvaccinated employees.

The legislative push goes hand in hand with the politicization of the vaccine effort by some Republicans, especially on its most extremist wing. While some Republicans have urged people to get vaccinated, others have sought to portray it as excessive attack on the government, often using very provocative language. Georgian Republican extremist Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene compared vaccination efforts to Nazi Germany and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk compared them to apartheid.

A recent Politico investigation also found that while Democrats support vaccine mandates and passports, Republicans oppose “government or most employers interfering with their individual choice.” Another poll released by PBS NewsHour / NPR / Marist in March found that 41% of Republicans were not planning to get the vaccine.

Many people refuse to get the vaccine because they are worried about long term side effects and don’t trust its FDA approval. All three Covid-19 vaccines administered in the United States have received emergency use authorization.

These Republican bills aim to protect people from being required to get vaccinated for professional or educational purposes.

Under the direction of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers have the right to require vaccination of their employees. However, outside of the healthcare industry, many choose not to.

A recent survey of 660 employers found that 72% “will not require or plan to require vaccination before entering the workplace”. Instead, they encourage communication about the value of immunization, provide flexibility in planning, and consider administration of immunization on or near site for employees.

“We have a long history in this country of employers who do not enter into the health decisions of their employees for the most part,” said Pearson. “I think it’s respectful of this tradition and this history. “

Instead of forcing vaccines, employers set up incentives, offering rewards to employees who get vaccinated. This adds a small bonus to getting the vaccine and avoids possible legal action against employers.

Kroger and Petco are offering cash to employees who can prove they have been vaccinated. Target offers up to four hours of paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and even pays for cab rides to and from the appointment. Krispy Kreme offered free donuts to people who showed their Covid-19 vaccination record.

“I think most employers recognize that there is an element of individual choice to get vaccinated,” Pearson said.

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