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Rep. Grothman against vaccine mandates for health care workers

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GREEN LAKE (WKOW) -- Less than two hours after UW Health announced Wednesday it was requiring its staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the subject of employer-mandated vaccines came up at a town hall Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Fond du Lac) held at the Brooklyn Town Hall.

After the event, Grothman said he opposed such measures from any employers, including health care providers. The congressman said his stance was largely based on feedback he's received from medical workers who don't want the vaccine to be a condition of their employment.

"I think, particularly as this vaccine is still experimental, I don't like the idea of forcing people, to keep their job, to do something they are opposed to," Grothman said.

The issue came up during the question-and-answer portion of the town hall. Dr. Ray Jeorgen, a surgeon from Theda Clark in Neenah, told the crowd of about 40 he's seen first hand the Delta variant is the "real deal" and said he supported organizations taking actions to increase the nation's vaccination rate.

"It's not a political issue; it's a science, health care issue," Jeorgen said. "And we need to protect the citizens of our state and, for that matter the country and, right now, vaccines is where it's at and it can protect people."

Jeorgen said he's heard a variety of misinformation parroted by patients, debunked ideas the vaccine makes them magnetic or includes a chip. He told the crowd the risks of a severe complication were very slim, although many shouted 'wrong!' at him on the subject of employer-mandated vaccines.

"What I've been telling people is you have more of a chance of getting killed in a car crash than you are of getting a complication from the vaccines as we know it," Jeorgen said. "People throw around the experimental term but if we believed a lot of that, there'd be polio running around, people would have small pox."

When asked if he believed lawmakers and other public officials who've been skeptical about the vaccine bear some responsibility for any health care workers resisting the vaccine, Grothman said he believed that reflected a failure of leadership in the medical community.

"From what I get, the medical community has not done a good enough job of educating their own employees," Grothman said. "I have to take that into account when I get so many nurses come up to me who, presumably, are familiar with the medical situation saying 'please prevent my employer from forcing me to do this.'"

Grothman said people are able to find lots of information both for and against vaccination online and suggested they talk to their own doctors before deciding for themselves.

"I think there's unquestionably, particularly, the older people benefits to the vaccine but I am not gonna play doctor to everybody in Dane County tonight," Grothman said. "So, we voted for the vaccine, we put billions of dollars into it and we certainly turned it around quicker than anybody thought."

A reporter then asked Grothman if he was vaccinated; the congressman declined to answer before taking off the microphone and walking away from the interview.

"I don't like to get into taking sides on it," Grothman said.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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