Court says Ohio didn’t overstep in requiring health care workers to get measles vaccine

A federal judge in Ohio on Friday ruled that state officials had overstepped their authority when they required health care providers to obtain an exemption from vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella to work as a nurse or in another medical field.

The ruling is the latest in a series of legal challenges to the federal government’s vaccine mandates. Last year, a federal appeals court declined to block a mandate that health care workers get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella before treating patients.

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett in Toledo granted a preliminary injunction to a nurse who sued the Ohio Department of Health in 2015.

“Although this is not a ruling about the mandatory vaccination of the general public, health care providers are often in direct contact with the public and have a special role in the vaccination of the general public,” the judge wrote. “As such, plaintiffs are subject to special regulations governing their vaccination and should be fairly protected from unfettered political exercises in matters of vaccination.”

The Ohio state health department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday evening. But during the hearing for the lawsuit, state officials argued that the government has a right to set a public health standard and medical professionals have a right to work without state-mandated vaccinations.

In making that argument, state attorneys said the state’s laws banning certain health care providers from working should stand.

“Those are common-sense protections which prevent a dangerous medicine,” Alan Bauer, an attorney representing the state, told the judge during a hearing last year.

But one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiff, Brenda Dinahk, countered that vaccines are not the same as medicine and the state’s mandate to get the vaccine was vague.

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