While Rep. Russ Diamond's bill applies to all vaccines, he is open to narrowing the scope to the coronavirus vaccine.By Jon Delano

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — A federal court in Texas has ruled that it is constitutional for employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But a Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to outlaw the practice with a bill to make it illegal for any employer to require its workers to be vaccinated.

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“In Pennsylvania, because we are an at-will employment state, your employer can require you to get a vaccine as a condition of your employment,” says state Rep. Russ Diamond, a Lebanon Republican.

“I just think that is absolutely wrong,” Diamond told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.

Calling it the Right to Refuse Act, Diamond has introduced H.B. 262 to prohibit all employers, including health care systems, from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment.

While Diamond’s bill applies to all vaccines, he is open to narrowing the scope to the coronavirus vaccine.

“We’re seeing a lot of adverse reactions to this particular vaccine, and it could be because it’s under emergency use authorization only. So it’s very new. It’s real fast. It came at us like lightning,” Diamond said. “I just think people need to get more comfortable with it before we allow employers to say you got to get it or you’re fired.”

Watch as KDKA’s Lindsay Ward reports:

 

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“I think Rep. Diamond’s bill is dangerous and irresponsible,” said PA Rep. Jessica Benham, a South Side Democrat and member of the Health Committee.

Benham says vaccines work and have been required in many places for years.

“The COVID vaccine has substantially reduced case counts. The folks that we see who have been hospitalized for COVID now are by and large the people who have not been vaccinated,” Benham said.

Benham says many jobs require contact with vulnerable populations, like hospitals and nursing homes, where vaccination makes common sense.

“I think that people should be able to choose whether or not they get a vaccine, but I also respect the right of employers to say, in this context because of the work that we do, vaccines are required,” she said.

Diamond disagrees.

“I don’t think you should have to give up your job over, effectively, an experimental vaccine,” he said.

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The House Labor & Industry Committee is considering Diamond’s bill on Tuesday. No word yet on when the full House might vote on this measure.