Attorney General Kamala Harris, left, and Dr. Kamala Harris (4th from left) with a vaccination violation notice, at Los Angeles City Hall. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
The U.S. Supreme Court recently said California’s mandate that certain businesses vaccinate their employees was constitutional, but for private-sector workers like Carmen Baily and her 3-year-old daughter, it may make it more difficult to find work.
Ms. Baily works in the food industry and provides her daughter with a “clinic spay,” a procedure that sterilizes the girl’s hymen. She hasn’t had the insurance coverage to get it done, but she’s lucky. Many stay-at-home mothers who need vaccination to prevent infectious diseases don’t have health insurance.
In California, labor laws require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide insurance and cover certain vaccines. Ms. Baily works for Biscoe’s Bakery, which provides workers with the shots. But health insurance and vaccination are not a shared benefit. She struggles to find work because workers have little incentive to take on vaccine requirements in order to get paid.
At Los Angeles City Hall last month, Attorney General Kamala Harris, along with lawmakers and advocates, announced that the state, in conjunction with the San Francisco and the Santa Clara County health departments, had sent 91,000 letters to private and small-business employers asking them to cover the cost of the immunizations. Ms. Harris said employers face fines of up to $2,000 and losing some tax deductions if they fail to comply.
But some business owners fear this mandate, which they say will violate their First Amendment right to free speech, could result in a “free-rider” problem — unvaccinated employees who leave them with a potentially diseased workforce.
The fear of this potentially troubling side effect isn’t unique to California. Several states, including New York, have sent letters to businesses asking them to provide vaccines.
For Ms. Baily, who first learned of the mandate in October, when she was offered a job and asked to take an anonymous blood test, she had to turn it down, on the grounds that she didn’t want her child’s freedom to be limited. She still needs to pay for the clinics and the shots, however.
“We can’t pay for this,” Ms. Baily said. “We need to have a balance. We need to work and earn and pay our bills.”
Ms. Baily said that she would prefer the government chose to invest money in someone’s education or a program for autistic children before asking businesses to provide employees vaccinations. But when asked whether it could be forced upon her and others who don’t need them, she replied: “No, I think it’s a right. You want freedom, then you have to work for it.”