Vaccine mandates have proven a flashpoint in Florida, but a House bill that would have pared back an existing mandate for firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, and correction officers was withdrawn from further consideration this week.
DeLand Republican Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff had filed a bill late last month that would have added COVID-19 and “infectious diseases” to the list of conditions that, if suffered by emergency rescue or public safety worker, is presumed to have been contracted while at work.
But HB 53 also would have changed existing law that now requires those same employees to be immunized in order to have presumptive eligibility, which entitles the worker to higher disability and death benefits.
The bill was withdrawn and that provision was deleted from a replacement bill, HB 117, which Fetterhoff filed Thursday.
Hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, and tuberculosis are conditions that public safety workers and emergency rescue workers can be presumed to have contracted while on the job. But current law allows an employer to require an employee who wants to tap into the presumptive eligibility provisions afforded under the law “to receive the vaccine or undergo the immunization or prophylaxis unless the worker’s physician determines in writing that the immunization, or other prophylaxis would pose a significant risk to the worker’s health.”
HB 53 bill would have amended the law to make clear employers could require the inoculation only if the “vaccine, immunization, or prophylaxis has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.”
HB 117 is silent on immunizations.
Currently there is no Senate companion for HB 117. Legislative records show the Florida Professional Firefighters has registered to lobby the bill. The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fetterhoff filed similar legislation last year. Indeed, HB 949 moved through two House subcommittees before ultimately stalling. HB 949 didn’t specifically add COVID-19 to the list of conditions that could potentially trigger the presumptive eligibility, but the bill did have the immunization language that Fetterhoff has removed from this year’s bill.
The Florida Professional Firefighters, Advent Health, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, CVS Pharmacy, Inc. and the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, registered to lobby the bill in 2021.