Vaccination selection law in healthcare facilities collapsed

Helena, Mont. — A person’s choice to refuse vaccinations does not exceed requirements for public health and safety in medical facilities, a federal judge ruled in a Montana case.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy last week permanently blocked part of a law the state says is intended to prevent employers — including many health care facilities — from discriminating against workers by ask them to get vaccinated against infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Molloy concluded in the December 9 ruling: “There is a public interest in protecting the general population against vaccine-preventable diseases in health care settings by using safe, effective vaccines are unaffected by the difficulty experienced in achieving that concern.”

The Montana Legislature passed the nation’s first legislation in 2021, about a year after the pandemic as some people, businesses and Republican lawmakers are rolling back health care measures. enacted to prevent the spread of a virus that has now killed more than 1 million people in the United States. State officials say just over 3,600 Montana residents have died from COVID-19.

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Montana law makes it illegal for a person to be denied services, goods, or employment based on their vaccine status. The law does not change vaccine requirements at schools or child care facilities or remove a person’s right to an exemption for religious or medical reasons.

Republican lawmakers who support the bill say it’s needed to deal with bosses’ threats to fire workers who don’t get vaccinated.

Before signing the bill, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte asked lawmakers to amend it to allow long-term care facilities to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if failure to do so would result in the death of workers. means that the facility may lose funding under federal directives.

The federal directive was recently opposed by attorneys general in 22 states including Montana.

The Montana Medical Association, clinics and immunocompromised patients filed a lawsuit against the state in September 2021 and were later joined by the Montana Nurses Association. They argued and Molloy agreed that treating clinics and hospitals differently from long-term care facilities makes no sense under a law the state says is intended to prevent discrimination. and protect private healthcare information.

The plaintiffs argued that in some cases the same person could work in all three types of facilities on the same day.

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The plaintiffs have successfully argued that the law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires public facilities to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Molloy found that an immunosuppressed patient would be vulnerable if they were treated in a healthcare facility where staff members were not vaccinated.

The law also violates the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, he said, by failing to keep workplaces free of recognized hazards. The plaintiffs have demonstrated that vaccine-preventable diseases constitute recognized hazards in health care settings, Molloy writes.

“The Court’s order is a victory for all Montanans – young or old, healthy or sick – who no longer have to worry about government interference with the safety of care. their health in Montana,” Vicky Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association, said in the statement.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is studying the opinion to determine his next steps, spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said in a statement.

In the meantime, Knudsen is leading a group of lawyers challenging the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to require healthcare workers in long-term care facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The challenger argues that vaccines do not prevent the spread of the virus, sudden infections are common, and that vaccines themselves are not entirely without risk.


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