November 21, 2014

Lawmaker looks to ban flu shot mandates

Businesses would no longer be able to require employees to get a flu shot each year, under a bill being introduced at the Wisconsin Capitol. The proposal from state Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) would prohibit employers from firing or disciplining workers who refuse to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza.

The Fond du Lac Republican says the issue came to his attention after a hospital in his district started mandating the shots, resulting in two employees being fired and eight people quitting. Thiesfeldt says many others contacted him and said they went ahead and got the shot to protect their jobs, even though they had reservations about doing so.

Several medical groups have registered in opposition to the bill, arguing that having health care workers get a flu shot reduces the risk of spreading the virus in hospitals. However, Thiesfeldt says such policies ignore concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine or personal objections that people may have. While some employers allow exemptions for religious or medical reasons, he says that can often be very difficult to prove.

AUDIO: Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (:16)

Even if 100 percent of workers were vaccinated, Thiesfeldt says many members of the general public still going into hospitals have not been. While he says he understands the point of hospitals wanting to minimize the health risks, Thiesfeldt argues the vaccine mandates intrude on people’s rights.

A hearing on the bill could come later this summer.