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With pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 at an all-time high, there's no better time to revisit Montana's law making vaccination status a protected class, meaning that even at hospitals and child care centers — places where the most vulnerable are most concentrated — an FDA-approved vaccine cannot be a requirement for employment.

I would like to place my toddler in a local day care, but I want her to be cared for by vaccinated adults only. This is not an unreasonable desire. Nonpartisan health officials affirm that the best way to protect a child ineligible for a COVID-19 vaccine is to surround them with vaccinated adults. Gov. Gianforte and the Republicans in the state Legislature, though, say that COVID-19 vaccines cannot be mandated anywhere because personal choice is inviolable.

They are wrong. Many personal choices are necessarily regulated for industries such as child care. Hand-washing, for example, is a personal choice, yet it is mandated at day cares in Montana—indeed, the DPHHS licensing requirements contain an entire paragraph detailing exactly when and how employees are to wash their hands. Has personal principle led you to forswear the use of soap? Then you are welcome to find a job elsewhere. (There seem to be plenty to go around these days.)

Of course, Montana day cares actually do require vaccinations—Tdap and MMR for staff (37.95.184) and a detailed schedule for children (37.95.140), with few exceptions built in. I’m glad I can send my child to a day care where she faces only a minuscule risk of contracting mumps, but I can also tell you it isn’t mumps that keeps me — and scores of other Montana parents — awake at night, knowing our children have become little more than pawns in a vile political game.

Mindy Misener


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