Disney says it won’t force new hires to get vaccines following Florida law

The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday decided not to place a mandatory vaccination mandate for new hires in place following passage of the state’s new vaccine law, though the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all employees up to age 21 be vaccinated.

Walt Disney World announced the decision in an emailed statement, adding that it’s “continuing to closely monitor the new legislation in Florida and monitoring best practices from other theme parks and other businesses.”

With the mandate already in place for new hires, Disney World — which operates three resorts in Orlando, including Walt Disney World — was prohibited from enforcing it for current employees.

But Disney has said it would consider adding a new requirement for new hires, which it says would be in addition to the state’s requirement that all children between the ages of 2 and 18 received a certain number of vaccinations.

In April, Florida became the first state in the nation to implement a vaccination mandate for professional workers who come into direct contact with children under the age of 2, but who work with the young ones at theme parks and other child-related attractions.

The new law passed by the Florida Legislature after a proposed ban on public school vaccinations drew intense criticism from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, whose state is one of the most likely places in the country to report outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The legislation was opposed by employers and health-care providers.

Last year, the CDC reported 12 measles outbreaks in 15 states. The illness is common in the first two to three weeks of January, when schools are closed, according to the CDC. In 2017, measles was reported in children younger than two months, and cases surfaced in children aged five to 16, where the illness often resurfaces.

Many outbreaks last year stemmed from unvaccinated individuals who come into contact with someone who is otherwise unvaccinated.

State and federal laws now require most vaccines for children. But while most public school children are vaccinated, many children under the age of two are not.

The law in Florida specifies that all employees who come into direct contact with a child younger than 2 — from attractions, to buses, and to the doctors’ offices and clinics where they get their shots — must be vaccinated against five diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and pertussis.

The mandate applies to childcare workers, but does not apply to anyone working at Disney World, because the resort is a separate business from the business that employs them.

Last year, health officials sent local media outlets a report citing concerns from Disney World about a potential outbreak that threatened to spread among its employees.

Although the outbreak in Florida was short-lived, the union that represents Disney employees in Florida, the Service Trades Council, at the time warned of measles as a potential infection.

The worker’s group also said that other states may take similar steps.

“Based on feedback from Florida legislators, employers in other states may enact similar restrictions on nonmedical exemptions to protect the public health,” Seth Kaplan, communications director for the group, said last year.

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