Pennsylvania House of Representatives members have proposed House Bill 2318, which proposes that employers must provide a “natural immunity” exemption to employees under any employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy. The bill defines “natural immunity” as possessing immunity to the COVID-19 virus as a result of previous infection caused by the virus. Thus, if the proposed bill becomes law, unvaccinated employees who have natural immunity from COVID-19 will be exempt from employer vaccination requirements. HB 2318 includes two ways for an employee to establish “natural immunity” such that the employee may opt out of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination required by their employer: (1) the employee can provide proof from a physician that they were previously infected with COVID-19; or (2) the employee can provide an approved serology test demonstrating the presence of antibodies for COVID-19 no more than 90 days since the date the medical test was administered.
Additionally, the bill states that when an employee who receives this exemption no longer possess the natural immunity required, they have at least 30 days to provide additional evidence of natural immunity, can seek the alternative exemptions, or comply with the employer COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Unfortunately, the proposed bill does not provide enough detail on how an employer will be able to identify when an employee no longer possesses the natural immunity required.
Pennsylvania now joins states like Ohio, South Carolina, Indiana, and Idaho which are also pursuing bills seeking natural immunity exemptions to employer mandated vaccine requirements. Florida, West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, and Utah have already carved out this exemption for unvaccinated employees. As more studies are done to determine the protection of natural immunity versus vaccinations, legislation in states will likely be proposed to address this issue in one way or the other.
Currently, HB 2318 is under review by the Pennsylvania House Health Committee. While it is unclear how the Wolf administration will respond to the bill, employers should keep an eye on this proposal.