Written by By Vicki Smith, CNN
Officials in Florida have decided to halt a state law requiring Disney World employees to have up to three doses of a non-emergency vaccine — which critics say offers the Disney employees a competitive advantage over the elderly or low-wage workers.
The agency handling the Florida Department of Health’s contract with Disney revealed the decision in a report published Wednesday.
Disney brought the state the waiver in an effort to join a cluster of other companies that offer the vaccine to employees. Like the other companies, Disney sells it on the internet and also offers it to guest employees at the resorts.
Mickey Mouse, riders of the famous “Dreamboat” Mickey and Minnie ride on the Disney Magic, ride the rides in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at the Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP
Disney’s initial push for the mandatory vaccination against hepatitis A in 2015 was canceled after a parent sued. The ban was put in place in 2016, but has since been halted after a judge and health department officials approved an initial waiver.
No one from Disney was immediately available for comment.
In the agency’s report, a doctor who works for the Florida Department of Health said the exemption process at Disney World makes it possible for the company to have a “continuing advantage over other labor pools when recruiting talent for that resort area.”
Dr. Curt Anderson, the doctor, said it’s also advantageous because Disney workers have access to their doctor all day and can get the vaccination quicker than low-wage employees at the resort.
“I have talked to companies whose compensation makes it advantageous for the employees to work at a specific location,” Anderson wrote. “In short, I believe that where a worker receives his or her shots closer to home makes an important difference in his or her health.”
He added, “I believe that this indirect benefit to Disney will prevail based on the large number of employees currently exempted from the recommended level of Hepatitis A immunization.”
The Miami Herald first reported on the waiver.
Last year, according to the health department, the Disney-affiliated resorts issued waivers to 13 employees who claimed the company’s benefits. All 13 employees reportedly had access to the company’s doctors, and chose to use them for free rather than going to their local health department. Anderson said in his report that he and three other doctors were listed as the only contracted service providers for the Disney waiver.
Since the 2012 creation of the statewide anti-vaccination law — which bans parents from opting out of mandatory inoculations for their children at public schools — health officials have issued more than 20,000 exemptions to the required immunizations, based on new or updated science.
The law created an exemption by allowing children to receive the shots if they were not going to be exposed to an infectious disease, or if the disease was an “alarming life-threatening condition,” according to Florida’s Department of Health website.
Some parents’ group’s believe a group of their peers should be immune from the law.