In spite of the fact that several major corporations throughout the United States have stated that COVID-19 vaccinations would be needed for their workers to return to work in person, there is one state where these requirements are not permitted: Montana.
New legislation enacted by the state’s Republican-controlled Senate earlier this year defines mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment as “discrimination,” which is also considered a breach of the state’s human rights statutes. According to Hemi Tewarson, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, Montana is the only state in the United States that has enacted legislation of this kind for private businesses.
Montana Is The State That Does Not Compel Workers To Get Vaccinations
Businesses throughout Montana are concerned about the legislation, which comes at a time when the state is dealing with an increase in COVID-19 cases, which is stressing the state’s healthcare system once again. This week, a growing chorus of doctors called mostly on the legislature to repeal the legislation, escalating the opposition.
In the state Legislature, Republican legislators who backed the bill said that it was necessary for the reaction to businesses “coercing” workers to obtain vaccines under fear of being fired. Employees at Benefis Health System in Great Falls, Montana, who were informed earlier this year that they would be required to get COVID-19 vaccines in order to retain their employment, were among the most vocal proponents of the measure.
When Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law in May, Benefis was compelled to abandon his original strategy for the company. Earlier this year, Gianforte, a former business executive who founded and ran a technology company, gave the bill his approval after making changes that would allow care facilities to require unvaccinated employees. The legislation was upheld by him this week in the face of increased criticism.
The governor has said that although he encourages Montanans to get safe and effective vaccinations, doing so is entirely optional, and no one should be subjected to prejudice because of their vaccination status. An email from Brooke Stroke, a spokeswoman for Gianforte, confirmed the statement.
While the number of national corporations requiring vaccinations of their employees who wish to return to work in person continues to grow, the list now includes companies such as Google, Facebook, Walmart, and United Airlines. Businesses in Montana do not have that option. Instead, businesses in Montana must rely on vaccinations provided by the state.
According to Mike Rooney, operations director for Downtown Helena Incorporated, an association that represents companies in downtown Helena, the majority of (businesses) feel as if they have their hands tied at the moment. Some people would undoubtedly accept a need for vaccinations or the use of a mask in certain situations.
Before the legislation went into effect, the Montana Hospital Association expressed opposition to it, stating that it would make it more difficult for the state to fulfill its demand for medical services. Now, the organization is expressing concern that their worries may come to pass. In the opinion of Dr. Neil Ku, an epidemiologist at the Billings Clinic who serves on the board of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology in America, Montana’s legislation distinguishes the state from the rest of the country in discussions about how to fight the Coronavirus.
The majority of vaccinations authorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the yearly flu shot, were mandated by Montana hospitals until recently, with an option for workers to opt out again for medical or religious reasons.
Now, that is no longer feasible, putting both employees and patients at risk of injury or death. In the United States, 60 percent of individuals who are eligible have been immunized against the COVID-19. The state of Montana has a 49 percent unemployment rate. Employees at Montana hospitals are vaccinated at a higher rate than the general population. Still, since there is no requirement, patients must accept an increased risk to their health while seeking care.