April 4, 2017
In March 2017, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sponsored bill H.R. 1313, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. At first glance the bill sounds reasonable, as it encourages the development of employee wellness programs to encourage workers to make healthier lifestyle choices.
The bill asserts that such health promotion and prevention programs help to reduce chronic illness, improve health and limit expanding health care costs.1
The bill is intended to “clarify rules relating to nondiscriminatory workplace wellness programs” and gives employers legal grounds to enforce the use of their wellness programs among employees. Specifically, the bill states in Section 2(3):2
” … [E]mployers would be permitted to implement health promotion and prevention programs that provide incentives, rewards, rebates, surcharges, penalties, or other inducements related to wellness programs, including rewards of up to 50 percent off of insurance premiums for employees participating in programs designed to encourage healthier lifestyle choices.”
Will Employees Be Penalized for Opting Out of Workplace Vaccines?
Some consumer groups, including the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), are calling on Americans to oppose H.R. 1313 because it essentially coerces employees into employer-run wellness programs, which pertain not only to programs of health promotion but also to “disease prevention offered by an employer.”3
“The words ‘disease prevention’ are concerning since not everyone agrees with the use of vaccines to prevent disease,” NVIC noted.
In addition to the talk of surcharges and penalties in Section 2(3), Section 3(c) suggests that employers may be able to require employees who do not follow through with certain wellness standards to request and complete an alternative standard:4
“Nothing … shall be construed to prevent an employer that is offering a wellness program to an employee from requiring such employee … to request a reasonable alternative standard (or waiver of the otherwise applicable standard).
Nothing … shall be construed to prevent an employer from imposing a reasonable time period … during which the employee must complete the reasonable alternative standard.”
NVIC stated in an action alert:5
“The concern is this bill if passed into law would be applied to penalize employees who do not get regular vaccines imposed by an employee wellness plan. H.R. 1313 is indeed a threat to anyone employed by a company or large organization that offers a ‘wellness’ program …
… and partners with government and Pharma to ‘give carrots and apply sticks’ to employees who do or do not go along with government endorsed ‘standard of care,’ which includes receipt of federally recommended vaccines, whether the language in this bill says the word ‘vaccine’ or not.”
A Legal Requirement for Vaccine Mandates at Work?
The U.S. government claims it does not impose vaccine mandates for adults, except for those entering the military. However, it’s not unusual for hospitals and other employers to fire workers who refuse certain vaccines, such as annual flu shots.
According to Dr. Meryl Nass, a vaccine blogger with special interests in vaccine-induced illnesses, it appears American hospitals do not actually have a legal leg to stand on when firing health care workers over vaccine refusals, although they do have financial incentive to do so.
In short, hospitals that have higher vaccination rates for patients and health care workers get higher Medicare reimbursement rates. Perhaps H.R. 1313 would also give them legal backing to require that employees take part in wellness programs, including vaccinations, or be penalized.
On the House Committee on Education and the Workforce website, (a committee chaired by Virginia Foxx), it’s noted that:
“Under H.R. 1313, employers will have the legal certainty they need to reward workers for making health lifestyle decisions. H.R. 1313 also reaffirms existing law that allows employers to provide responsible incentives for participation in employee wellness programs.“7
What is not pointed out, however, is that under H.R. 1313 employers could not only reward workers and provide incentives for participating in wellness programs — they could also impose surcharges and penalties.
Pediatrician Writes of ‘Snuffing Out the Anti-Vaccine Movement’
Scientific American recently posted an opinion piece written by Dr. Peter J. Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in Houston and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.8
Hotez, a vaccine developer and president and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Product Development Partnership, has been described as a vaccine industry spokesperson.9
In the Scientific American article, he writes that “an American neo-antivaccine movement is underway” and predicts it will result in severe measles outbreaks and possibly “subvert global health.”
He also trashes the film Vaxxed, which has brought important questions about vaccine safety into the limelight, calling it “a faux documentary alleging a vast conspiracy and cover-up at the CDC.”
He even stoops to name-calling, by way of posting a 1902 invitation for membership by the Anti-Vaccination Society of America, which describes the organization as a group of “half-mad, misguided” people.10
Calls for Increased Vaccine Safety Should Be Encouraged, Not Criticized
The piece has ruffled many feathers, in part because of its inaccuracies. For instance, measles outbreaks can and do occur even in highly vaccinated populations.
Hotez’s opinion piece also struck a nerve with many because it seems to suggest that people who call for increased transparency and vaccine safety studies are dangerous.
In reality, however, it’s the refusal to conduct comprehensive vaccine safety studies that poses a risk to every man, woman and child who receives vaccines. According to a rebuttal to the piece posted by NVIC’s The Vaccine Reaction journal:
“Dr. Hotez … is so worried about the growth in size and influence of the grassroots movement of well-educated people, who are questioning mainstream vaccine science and demanding that their informed consent rights and basic civil liberties be respected that he is actually calling for this movement to be snuffed out.
… But what exactly does he mean by this? Does he mean that anyone who questions the safety and effectiveness of vaccines or refuses a vaccine should be penalized in some way? Is he suggesting prison time? Certainly, he is not suggesting some sort of government sponsored capital punishment?
For the record, let it be known that Dr. Hotez does have conflicts of interest in making such a call. The Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development receives a lot of money from government and industry to develop and produce vaccines and so does the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
And while he has written, ‘I will never see a penny from our vaccines,’ there is a lot of money flowing into and out of the institutions in which he has prominent positions and exerts substantial influence regarding vaccine development and promotion.”
Does Mandating Vaccines in Hospitals Make Patients Healthier?
A key example of the types of questions that we need to be asking regarding vaccinations, especially those levied upon workers at the threat of their jobs, is whether or not they achieve their stated goal, which presumably would be to reduce disease and make people (or in the case of health care workers, patients) healthier.
A review published in July 2013 by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found, however, that:
“[L]aboratory-proven influenza or its complications (lower respiratory tract infection, or hospitalization or death due to lower respiratory tract illness) did not identify a benefit of health care worker vaccination on these key outcomes …”11 It went on to state: “This review does not provide reasonable evidence to support the vaccination of health care workers to prevent influenza in those aged 60 years or older resident in long-term care institutions.”
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published an update to this analysis in June 2016, noting that 5 percent of health care workers who had received the influenza vaccine and 8 percent of workers who were unvaccinated, had laboratory-proven influenza each season and that health care workers may transmit influenza to patients. Still, the conclusions remained the same.
“Offering influenza vaccination to health care workers based in long-term care homes may have little or no effect on the number of residents who develop laboratory-proven influenza compared with those living in care homes where no vaccination is offered,” the authors wrote.12
Another 2013 meta-analysis — this one by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — similarly found, “The evidence quality that health care personnel vaccination reduces patient mortality and influenza cases is moderate and low, respectively.”13
If employees are going to be threatened with losing their jobs or subjected to penalties for opting out of vaccinations, it should at least be proven that they’re effective for their intended purpose, and safe, neither of which has been done.
Vaccine Exemptions Increasingly Under Attack
Your right to vaccine exemptions is under attack in many states, from Texas to California, with lawmakers increasingly pushing for mandatory vaccination in the name of public health. In 2015, for instance, California quickly went from a state with a personal belief exemption that protected vaccine choice to one with one of the strictest vaccine policies in the U.S.
California is only 1 of 3 states in the U.S. that has eliminated the personal belief exemption for conscientious, philosophical or religious beliefs and now only allows a medical vaccine exemption that must be written by a medical doctor or other state-designated medical worker.
Texas lawmakers have also filed bills aimed at lowering the number of children who attend school with a conscientious belief exemption for “non-medical” reasons. One by one, there are bills being proposed in many states to remove vaccine exemptions from state public health laws, while government health officials support the addition of new vaccine mandates using a flawed, and sometimes fatal, one-size-fits-all schedule.
Most would agree that in the case of medical care, one size does not fit all. But in the case of vaccinations, public health officials prescribe the exact same number and timing of vaccinations for every child without taking into account biological differences among children, such as chronic diseases or mitochondrial disorders that may increase their risk of vaccine reactions.
Even in adults, serious reactions can occur unexpectedly, such as the case of an Australian man who received a whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine in order to visit his newborn baby, only to suffer a severe reaction and become paralyzed from the waist down.14
Join the Movement to Oppose H.R. 1313
It’s clear that there are more questions than answers regarding vaccination, and scientists have only scratched the surface of the complex changes that occur when you artificially manipulate the human immune system. Consider, for instance, the fact that vaccines cannot provide 100 percent protection from any given disease. Vaccines are imperfect, and imperfect vaccines may actually trigger the evolution of more severe disease.15
Increased attacks on vaccine choice by removal of vaccine exemptions are occurring, which is why taking action to protect your right to personal liberty and informed consent is so important. Toward that end, if you’d like to contact your legislators in Washington, D.C. and voice your opinion to oppose H.R. 1313, which may give employers the legal ability to penalize workers for not getting vaccinated, you can do so on NVIC’s Advocacy page.
Enter your zip code to see the contact information for your Congressional Representative and two U.S. Senators so you can voice your opposition to this bill.