Bill to ban discrimination for refusing COVID vaccine fails in committee

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — As more people become protected from COVID-19, some states have passed laws to make sure employers can’t retaliate against workers who choose not to get a shot.

House Republicans tried to add Colorado to that list. They were not successful, as their bill intended to do that failed with a vote of 8 to 5 in the House Health Care and Health Insurance committee.

“The purpose of it is: Based on the individual’s choice of taking the COVID-19 vaccine or not, the employer can’t discriminate against them for the decision, whatever that decision is,” said Rep. Tim Geitner, a Republican from El Paso County.

States like Arkansas, Montana and Utah already passed bills to limit what’s being called vaccine discrimination.

In Colorado, there’s no state mandate for vaccinations. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a medical doctor who represents District 31 in Adams County, said certain jobs may need their employees to be protected.

“I think it’s very important that when you’re working with vulnerable populations like I do — I see newborns — or when you are working in a nursing home, that you make sure that you’re only helping your patients and not placing them inadvertently at risk by carrying an illness you don’t know about because you haven’t been vaccinated,” Caraveo said.

Caraveo, who is also chair of the Health Care and Health Insurance committee, said businesses should have the final say on whether people working for them are vaccinated.

“What this bill is trying to do is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist,” Caraveo said.

Those who supported the bill, HB21-1191, are advising people who feel they have been discriminated against to seek other forms of retribution.

“I think there’s a role where complaints can be filed either with CDPHE or even the Department of Labor,” Geitner said. “I think those incidences may need to come on line and as the legislature convenes going forward, maybe there’s an opportunity for us to look at it.”

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment, along with dozens of other groups, testified against the bill, citing public health risks.

Some members representing the homeless, African-American and Indigenous communities testified in favor of the measure, saying marginalized groups don’t need to be further scrutinized.

One thing members on both sides of the debate agree on: Vaccinations are a personal decision.

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