Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston says the bill limiting businesses’ ability to require the COVID vaccine wouldn’t block them altogether.
The House will vote Tuesday on a bill requiring businesses to honor documented medical exemptions, and to automatically grant requests for religious exemptions, no questions asked. Business and health groups have warned the bill would effectively allow anyone to opt out, at a time when hospitals are stretched past capacity by COVID-19 patients, nearly all of them unvaccinated.
While some Republican legislators want an outright ban on vaccine mandates, Huston argues the bill doesn’t do that, even indirectly. He says legislators have heard from many people who don’t want to get vaccinated, but won’t try to get out of it by claiming a religious objection they don’t believe in. He says vaccination requirements have typically included religious exemptions, and argues it’s wrong to force people to prove their religious beliefs are genuine.
The bill would allow businesses to require exempted employees to get tested for COVID-19 up to once a week.
The bill goes beyond Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, which blocked the federal government’s attempt to require the vaccine, but doesn’t stop businesses from requiring it on their own. the vaccine. A second ruling from the high court let stand a federal requirement for health care facilities, meaning those workers wouldn’t be covered by the Indiana bill.
Huston describes himself as pro-vaccine, and says he encourages Hoosiers to get vaccinated and take other precautions. But he says the House is trying to strike a balance between businesses’ desire to operate without government regulation, and workers’ rights to make individual decisions.
Huston argues the COVID vaccine is different from longstanding Indiana immunization requirements like those for measles or mumps. About 95-percent of Hoosiers hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated, but Huston notes a similar percentage of overall cases don’t go to the hospital at all. He argues younger employees have been highly unlikely to become seriously ill.
About 900 of Indiana’s 19-thousand COVID-19 deaths have been under 50.
If the bill passes the House is expected, the Senate would consider it next month. Governor Holcomb has repeatedly said he’s against government vaccine mandates but supports businesses who choose to institute them on their own. He’s already signaled he has “concerns” about the bill.