Iowans shared concerns over healthcare exemption, ability for employer vaccine mandates during April subcommittee

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Some healthcare workers in Iowa are facing a big decision — get vaccinated or find a new job, unless, of course, their employer accepts a religious or medical exemption for a mandated COVID-19 vaccine.

During the subcommittee hearing on the bill in the Iowa House, the employer-mandate loophole was brought up again and again.

Here is some of what Iowans said about their concerns with the bill exempting healthcare facilities and staying silent on employer mandates:

Brei Johnson spoke as a member of Informed Choice Iowa. She was one of many Iowans who testified in the subcommittee on the vaccine passport bill warning about issues with the bill. She criticized the exemption for healthcare facilities.

“What this would look like in application is gravely concerning since it has the potential to open this up for nursing homes, doctor offices, hospice facilities to make it mandatory to be a patient, resident, visitor or employee of these facilities. We must provide blanket protection for all facilities and not cherry-pick whose private health information is to be protected.”

Johnson noted recent surveys showing 20-60 percent of essential workers would not take the vaccine.

“States should be protecting critical public safety and care infrastructures, which would otherwise be severely compromised as those who don’t want this vaccine will leave these areas of the workforce. We must protect all Iowans.”

Katie Adrian, who also spoke as a member of Informed Choice Iowa, warned against similar concerns.

“Iowans are adamantly against vaccine mandates, period,” Adrian told lawmakers. “Iowans are still speaking and I implore you to listen to them now. If this were to pass, they would very much still be unprotected as this is laying the groundwork for legalized discrimination across our state. There is no protection in place for the employees against a vaccine mandate or a vaccine passport.”

Adrian said employee mandates were already starting in the state and she offered a list of such mandates to legislators. This was during the April 26 subcommittee.

Bethany Niermeyer said she shared concerns about how vague the bill was.

“We need protection from vaccine mandates at every level, not just at the government level,” she said.

Lindsay Maher spoke against the limitations provided in the bill.

“We see a potential to legalize discrimination and invasion of privacy and a show your papers statement at all types of healthcare facilities across the state,” she said. “This bill is basically a state endorsement of mandated vaccinations for healthcare facilities for employees and for anyone visiting them. Is this what you want for your loved ones?”

Oliver Bardwell also called for legislators to protect employees. He said he was speaking with someone in the hallway whose company was going to require unvaccinated employees to go through “a little physical” before every in-person meeting.

“The two employees that aren’t vaccinated will be segregated every time they have an in-person meeting,” he said. “We’re bringing segregation back is what we’re doing if we allow that.”

State Sen. Jim Carlin also spoke out against the bill due to his concerns.

“(Health care) visitors, residents, doctors and nurses would seriously be coerced into forced compliance that would affect their bodily autonomy and their privacy,” he said. “Vaccine passports are incredibly coercive. It would be an incredibly coercive tool of the government to be able to tell you where and how you could travel, where you could work – there’s a lot of potential for great evil here that really needs to be considered as it relates to the threat of freedom that it existentially presents to us today.”

Author: Jacob Hall