HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii’s attorney general, a court ruling in Texas opens the door to mandatory vaccinations in Hawaii.
A federal judge allowed a Houston hospital to fire workers who refused to be vaccinated. The attorney general said this means the state can also require employees to get the shots.
According to guidelines from the US Commission on Equal Opportunities in Employment, employers generally have the right to make a requirement with certain exceptions.
The Hawaii Nurses Association announced that some hospitals are instructing certain nurses to disclose their vaccine status. The union said if hospitals made the vaccine mandatory there would be no legal reason to stop it.
“We discussed this with our attorneys early on,” said Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association. “And they advised us that if we fought against it, they thought we wouldn’t win. What we could do is negotiate how it’s done and how it’s handled. “
Hawaii Pacific Health said they don’t need the vaccine yet.
“We believe that more information is needed before a decision is made about whether it is necessary for employees,” HPH spokeswoman Kristen Bonilla said in an email. “While we don’t require our employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we pride ourselves on the fact that 84% of Hawaii Pacific Health employees are vaccinated.”
Bonilla said the staff’s vaccination information is confidential but they keep a record.
A spokesman for Queen’s Health Systems said they don’t request vaccination information from employees – their vaccination rate is 87%.
DeWolfe Miller, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hawaii, said he was surprised that more and more employers are not asking or needing the vaccine.
“There’s just no reason not to,” Miller said.
The State Department of Education, the University of Hawaii and the Department of Public Safety said they couldn’t even ask staff if they were vaccinated because it was medical information.
“The department would not, and would not, instruct employees to report their vaccination status unless required by law as a condition of employment,” said Krislyn Yano, a communications specialist with the Department of Education. “However, HIDOE encourages all eligible persons to be vaccinated.”
The organizations said that if they asked, due to strict union contracts, they may not be able to do anything about it. For example, it can be difficult to change duties, such as removing an unvaccinated guard from a prison facility.
“We can’t do that because law enforcement officers can bid on their posts every 16 or 12 weeks,” said Tommy Johnson, the deputy director of corrections for the Department of Public Security. “Depending on seniority, they can choose their post for their shifts.”
Despite some setbacks, some said the need for vaccines in the workplace shouldn’t be an issue.
“It’s not complicated, it’s very public health,” Miller said. “And we should do that. I’m a little surprised that we haven’t been there yet. “
The attorney general said if there was a mandate there would be exceptions for health and religious reasons.
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