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Bill would ban businesses from requiring employees get vaccinations

DES MOINES — Two Republicans in the Iowa Senate have agreed to advance a bill that would prohibit Iowa businesses and health care facilities from requiring that employees get vaccinations. A 97-minute-long subcommittee hearing on the bill was dominated by critics of vaccinations in general.

Shanda Burke, a lobbyist for a group called Informed Choice Iowa, says she quit her job as a medical assistant because her employer required flu shots.  “No other health decisions are like that, you know, blood pressure, anything like that, it’s completely up to you between you and your doctor and not between you and your employer,” she said.

The bill also lets parents claim a conscientious objection to having their child meet vaccination requirements for school attendance.

Medical groups oppose the bill. Lena Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, says social media posts are fueling vaccine hesitancy.  “Iowa’s vaccination rates are in decline at the same time that anti-vaccine advocacy in Iowa is increasing,” she says. “…The problem is that misinformation and false data can be shared with thousands with only a click.”

Dr. Amy Shriver, a Mason City native who is a Des Moines pediatrician, says bills that grant exceptions to vaccinations have a dramatic effect. “Instilling more fear and letting that fear overcome the medical facts that we have about vaccine safety and efficacy,” Dr. Shriver said.

Senator James Carlin, a Republican from Sioux City who just announced he’s running for the U.S. Senate, chaired the hearing. He says there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate. “The interests in businesses and health care facilities to have people vaccinated versus a person’s legitimate interest in having autonomy over their own body,” Carlin says.

Health insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage based on a lack of immunizations if the bill as currently written becomes law.

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