Question of vaccine mandates at businesses appears before Kansas lawmakers

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Companies are deciding how to go about getting vaccines to their workers. The topic of whether employers should be able to mandate vaccines is in front of Kansas lawmakers.

Currently businesses could require employees to get a coronavirus vaccine.

A new bill would prevent businesses from punishing employees who don’t get the shot. Supporters said because the COVID-19 vaccine is new and some long-term side effects aren’t known, companies shouldn’t push it on workers.

“I don’t see any benefit to the employer by forcing a relatively untested emergency-based vaccination on anybody,” said Hutchinson Senator Mark Steffen, a physician who sponsored the bill.

Supporters said businesses could suffer in the future if the vaccine is proved to be harmful.

“The employer’s liability is basically in perpetuity, in that we don’t know what the risk and safety profile of this vaccination is, so they would be liable for forcing this for decades and decades, so we don’t need that for our economy, we don’t need to step on individual rights,” Steffen said.

But other lawmakers disagree. Atchison Representative John Eplee, also a physician, spoke against the bill.

“I do appreciate the intention of the bill author, and the inherent rights of all individuals for bodily autonomy for themselves and their dependents,” said Atchison Representative John Eplee.

He said it’s hard to mandate a vaccine when it hasn’t been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but he opposes not letting businesses decide for themselves.

“On the other hand with over now 44 million vaccines having been administered without serious complication, the argument of a EUA (emergency use authorization) versus a BLA (biologics license application) really pales in my opinion by sheer numbers,” Eplee said.

If the bill is passed, workers could take their employer to court for financial damages.

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