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House passes bill calling for end of health care worker vaccine rule

Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Washington — The House has passed legislation that would eliminate a rule requiring health care industry employers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Freedom for Health Care Workers Act (H.R. 497) – approved by a mostly partisan 227-203 vote in the Republican-led House on Jan. 31 – would nullify the vaccination requirement rule issued Nov. 5, 2021, by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and prohibit the issuance of any similar rule. 

In a press release, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) – the bill’s sponsor – calls the legislation “a win for medical freedom and individual liberty” and adds that the vaccine requirement exacerbated health care staffing issues.

“The frontline workers who were praised as heroes in the early days of the pandemic were forced to get the shot or get out, even as we struggled with a nationwide staff shortage in the health care industry,” Duncan said.

However, President Joe Biden has indicated he’ll veto the bill should it reach his desk. Seven Democrats sided with the 220 House Republicans who voted in advancing the bill.

Among those opposed is Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), who asserts that the bill would put health care workers, patients and their families at risk.

“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and have been essential to saving lives, rebuilding our economy and protecting the health of our communities,” Pallone said on the House floor. “We also know that vaccination of health care providers has protected our health care workforce and saved lives by ensuring that patients can receive safe and essential timely care.”

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