By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A number of Wyoming Republicans have come out and condemned COVID vaccine mandates stating employers terminating employees for refusal would be discrimination.
The Wyoming House Freedom Caucus, which consists of around 18 to 20 Wyoming House Republicans, condemned vaccine mandates in a statement on Wednesday.
“We do not believe employers should have the authority to require vaccines of employees,” the group said. “We believe each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions as set forth by Article 1, Section 38 of Wyoming Constitution.”
The group said they valued the hardworking American worker, especially those working on the front lines during the pandemic, but feared a temporary collapse in the health care system due to vaccine mandates. They also highlighted potential exemption reasons, such as religion, health and natural immunity.
While some people will acquire an immunity to the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wyoming Department of Health continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.
“We raise concern as to whether or not employers are providing informed consent,” the Freedom Caucus said. “Termination of an employee for refusing to take a vaccine should be considered discrimination and unemployment benefits must be awarded through Wyoming Workforce Services.”
They also said they opposed using taxpayer dollars to fund businesses or organizations that enforce vaccine mandates.
Banner Health, one of the largest U.S. health system employers, is requiring its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by November 1 or lose their jobs. The organization announced this mandate in July.
Banner Health operates multiple health care systems in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and clinics in Torrington, Wheatland, Guernsey, Douglas, Worland and more.
No other Wyoming-owned hospitals or health care systems in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, although some, such as Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, have created incentive programs for employees who do get vaccinated.
Banner is implementing the requirement for several reasons, including the rise of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the need to protect its patients and workforce and to prepare for flu season.
Earlier this year, Montana passed a law that does not allow for private employers to require vaccinations.