Court stops law barring vaccine status queries – for all vaccines

Physicians and other health professionals in Montana in private practices, hospitals and certain federally funded facilities can take necessary steps to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases in their offices thanks to a federal court ruling.

The court has issued an injunction preventing Montana officials from enforcing a law that prohibits health care workers from knowing the immunization status of employees or patients if they refuse to answer questions about immunization status or immunity passports.

State legislatures passed the law in 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the law applied to all vaccines, whether for measles, mumps, flu, rubella, tetanus, or the like.

The Montana Medical Association (MMA), other medical organizations and patients with compromised immune systems are suing the state attorney general over the law because it endangers the health of patients and workers by putting them at risk of exposure to vaccines. preventable diseases for just seeking medical care. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies provided assistance in the case (PDF), Montana Medial Association et al. v. knudsen.

The U.S. District Court for the Montana District Division of Missoula in December concurred with the MMA and other health professionals, ruling that the law is unconstitutional and preempts federal law. The court went on to say that the public has a genuine interest in a permanent injunction barring the state from enforcing the law in a private healthcare setting.

“The public interest in protecting the general population from vaccine-preventable public health diseases using safe, effective vaccines is not outweighed by the difficulties faced in attaining that interest,” the court said.

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In a statement, the MMA said in a statement that the “court’s conclusion enables physicians to make necessary precautions and medically necessary decisions to create safe environments for patients regardless of their medical challenges.” it said in the statement.

Thanks to the ruling, the MMA statement added, “Montana patients know there are policies and procedures in place to protect them when entering a healthcare facility.”

Learn about the cases in which the AMA Litigation Center provides assistance and learn about the Litigation Center’s eligibility criteria.

The Montana law created “undesirable problems” for physicians and other health professionals who “try to protect the environment in which services are provided to patients and prevent the spread of disease,” the federal court said.

As part of its decision, the court agreed with the MMA and others that the law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to consider workers’ housing requests. This includes requests from employees with weakened immune systems.

The court also agreed that doctors need to know the vaccination status of their staff to ensure they are not discriminating against their own patients.

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“Even if a healthcare facility is unable to limit a patient’s exposure to non-immune staff, the facility still needs to know the immunity or immunization status of the staff to provide protection and the risk of exposure through other possible methods such as use special personal protective equipment or require physical distancing,” the court said.

The court added that the state law violated the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The ruling also made permanent an injunction that the judge in the Montana case had previously granted to prevent the state from enforcing the law in facilities covered by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations.

The judge granted the injunction after the US Supreme Court upheld CMS vaccination for health care workers at federally funded medical facilities.