Sunday, October 24, 2021

States fight over school vaccination rules as ACA deadline looms

Shannon Burke knows how difficult it can be to find skilled, educated workers. She has tried everything to fill the positions of professional, construction and administrative workers at her downtown Indianapolis office building — from trying to partner with a school to hold job fairs to conducting job interviews in neighborhoods and in the homes of prospective hires.

But her new plan might do more harm than good.

Burke’s firm, Strategic Initiatives Inc., is already working with parents whose children don’t have enough vaccinations. She’s not discouraging them from wanting to work — just making sure that they can.

Even without a vaccination requirement, hiring workers with medical exemptions may not be easy, according to research by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

A small Indiana business in need of new hires or an expensive expansion might struggle to find qualified workers.

The state needs to be flexible

So far, Governor Eric Holcomb has been reluctant to sign a bill that would mandate vaccinations at work, instead saying it should be up to individual businesses. He did sign a bill that puts Indiana among the 14 states where parents don’t have to vaccinate their children against certain diseases.

Still, the business community doesn’t want Holcomb to reject the bill that could make it harder to recruit employees.

“This is a very important bill for Indiana,” said Dennis Moore, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “These medical exemptions will go away as we have a bigger workforce. It is important to make the business community available to allow parents who feel their children are not medically equipped to be vaccinated to help their child to progress through school without feeling the stress and make it easier for the child to be more successful.”

Indiana Chamber of Commerce

Related: Indiana SB234 ‘will put children at risk,’ says TCTZN president

One employee has already spoken out about the bill. Kerry Cebulski quit her job in May, writing in a Facebook post that “I choose my conscience over my job and work with Christian care & healing!”

Holcomb hasn’t commented on the bill, saying he will “take all public input into consideration” as he looks at the proposal.

Related: Indiana surgeon becomes latest to back mandatory vaccinations in legislature

Some jobs, however, could be exempt

The Indiana Hospital Association, the Marion County Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Chambers of Commerce support HB1902, saying it could help to raise the national standard. Supporters from the AMA, the American Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control also expressed their support.

SB234 states, “requiring mandatory vaccinations for all kindergarten children, children attending pre-k, and students attending public, non-public, and private schools also must be sufficient to accomplish the state’s objective of reducing the threat of communicable disease among those living in institutions of higher learning,” the bill says.

But when it comes to colleges and universities, SB234 does not go as far as HB1902, as the legislation adds a clause.

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“Requiring further immunization before a student, whether with or without a medical or religious exemption, can take full advantage of both [standards of] 24.3.1 and 24.5.1, is not necessary to accomplish the state’s objective,” it says.

The clause could create a situation where someone in Indiana’s State University system could be able to attend without having received their vaccine, even if they have a medical exemption.

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