The state committee on health heard arguments from both sides of a bill that would prevent a boss from requiring workers to get a flu shot.
Rep. Jeremy Theisfeldt wrote Assembly Bill 247 after he said a hospital employee lost her job over flu shot mandates.
“I'm standing for the freedom of individuals to be able to reasonably determine their own healthcare and not to have sacrificed their livelihood to do so,” Theisfeldt said.
Those who came out Wednesday in support of the bill said it is their personal choice to be vaccinated, not their employer’s.
Diane Witzel works at a clinic outside Stevens Point, and told committee members she is concerned with what side effects are in the fine print.
“Everyone that is getting vaccinated, their ultimate health is being compromised by trying to protect it,” Witzel said, “and there are less invasive measures that we can do to protect our patients' health.”
Father of six Kip Ziemer said his workplace requires the shot, and he doesn’t agree with it.
“I don't think that it is a healthy way to produce a healthy workforce by injecting them with something that is loaded full of poisons,” Ziemer said.
A number of healthcare providers spoke out against the bill, saying the requirement is there to protect patients who might be most vulnerable to serious flu-induced conditions.
Dr. James Conway with UW Health went as far to say that the bill was a major step backward in public health.
“We all know that in the healthcare field we have an obligation under the Hippocratic oath to do no harm,” Conway explained, “and so much of that is related then to trying to minimize risk to our patients and their population that we serve.”
Dave Smith and Bruce Van Clieve with Aurora Healthcare explained there are exceptions to their company’s flu shot mandate, such as religious reasons or a doctor’s note proving the vaccination could harm an employee’s health. However, they said their policy is an important part of keeping their patients healthy.
“Influenza vaccination policy as a condition of employment has been received well by a vast majority of our employees, and it continues to be an effective patient safety intervention for our communities,” Smith said.
“It will inhibit our ability to keep our patients and caregivers safe,” Van Clieve said.
Multiple people opposed to the bill said this would be the first law of its kind in the nation.
“Wisconsin would be first state in the country that would have a law prohibiting healthcare providers from implementing a policy they think is most effective in their healthcare setting,” said Kelly Court with the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
If passed, the bill would also make it illegal for healthcare employers to require face masks in the workplace.