DENVER (CBS4) – There’s a new twist in the debate over vaccinations at the Colorado State Capitol. A Senate committee heard a bill Monday that would bar employers — including health care facilities — from requiring employees to get vaccinated.
Some health care workers testified that it’s a matter of civil rights, and courts have sided with them in several recent cases around the country.
The federal Civil Rights Act requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for workers with religious objections. The state bill would go further and make it against the law for an employer to require anyone to get an immunization.
Kira Ritter has worked in health care for 17 years, most recently as a radiology technician at a freestanding emergency room. She says she’s afraid of losing her job because she objects to vaccinations on religious grounds.
“My fear is my exemption will be pulled because I’m the sole provider for my family, that I will have to lose everything and move out of Colorado.”
Ritter was among those who testified in support of the bill.
Theresa Wrangham with the National Vaccine Information Center says Colorado’s state health department has refused to provide guidance for health care facilities and, she says, stood by while employees’ civil rights are violated.
“There are some health care facilities in Colorado that allow for religious exemption and others that do not. We get a real mixed bag because there’s not a standardized, accurate piece of information for health care workers,” Wrangham said.
State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who is also a doctor, says health care workers take an oath to put their patients first.
“I see newborns every single day. I see babies in the NICU. I see people whose immune system is compromised, and that includes parents who are on chemotherapy and have compromised immune systems. And they really shouldn’t worry about coming to the doctor and contracting an illness from me.”
Ritter defends her decision not to vaccinate.
“I don’t feel that I’m putting anyone at risk any more than somebody that is being vaccinated.”
The bill died in committee. It is one of a dozen bills that address informed consent to vaccination this session.