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Politics & Government

Utah bill would ban many vaccine mandates

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Carrie Butler, executive director of the Utah Public Health Association, said this bill would limit the most impactful way to prevent severe cases of COVID-19 and an effective way to limit its spread.

A bill set to be considered in the Utah Legislature in the upcoming General Session would ban many vaccine mandates in the state.

The legislation prevents all governmental entities from requiring people to be vaccinated to get a service — like an education or licenses. It also bars organizations from mandating vaccines for employment.

Public colleges and universities, assisted living facilities, and child care businesses would be allowed to require them.

Healthcare facilities could ask for an employee’s vaccination status if they use it to make reasonable accommodations to that person’s work in order to limit the spread of disease. But employees couldn’t be forced to provide that information.

The bill’s sponsors were not available to comment.

But Carrie Butler, executive director of the Utah Public Health Association, said this would limit the most impactful way to prevent severe cases of COVID-19 and an effective way to limit its spread.

“If we're going to implement something like this particular bill, we also have to make it a lot easier for businesses to do regular testing, for individuals to do regular testing, for people to have safe places to work, for people [to] have options if they're immunocompromised to work from home,” she said.

Butler said the exemptions in the legislation are important.

“When they cannot make a choice to stay away from people or do social distancing or have protective gear or any of those things, I think you have an obligation as a care provider to make sure that they're as protected as possible, and that includes vaccinations,” she said.

Utah passed a law last year that allows workers to claim an exemption from vaccine mandates for sincerely held personal beliefs. But it’s invalid if the employee needs to be vaccinated to do their job and cannot be reassigned.

Gov. Spencer Cox said in December he would not support a bill that went further than that.

“The compromise that we came up with is one that makes sense,” he said. “We need to come together. Taking the animosity out of the room is important. We've been able to successfully do that, I believe, here in the state of Utah with the law that was passed.”

Cox’s office said Monday his position remains the same.

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