Why Utah’s Chris Stewart got the vaccine but says you shouldn’t shame people who don’t

Sen. Mike Lee, who also was inoculated, says the coronavirus shot should remain a personal choice.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Chris Stewart talks to Utah Republican Party chairman Derek Brown at the Utah Association of Realtors office in Sandy, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

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Sen. Mike Lee is vaccinated. So are Rep. Chris Stewart and the rest of Utah’s federal delegation.

But the two lawmakers say not only should the government never mandate the coronavirus inoculations, they also don’t like the idea of businesses doing it either.

During an online question-and-answer session Wednesday, they were asked to weigh in on the case of a woman who said her employer was requiring that she get vaccinated or get a note from a doctor or her clergy.

“Getting vaccinated is something about which people feel very differently. I’ve chosen to be vaccinated, and I think that really is a very personal decision,” Lee said. “It is certainly one that the government should never have the ability to mandate and then enforce categorically.”

Laws prohibit the state or federal government from mandating the shot, but a private employer legally can require it.

Stewart said before he joined Congress he was a small-business owner, and he never would have required employees to get a vaccine or any other health procedure.

“It’s outside the purview of what I think most employers have the right or the responsibility to do,” he said. “Like you, Mike, I was vaccinated. That was a personal choice. I felt it was the right thing to do. And I’m not afraid of the vaccine.”

Stewart added, “But I know people that I truly respect who don’t intend to get the vaccination. That’s their decision. They should be able to make that decision. We shouldn’t shame them for their decision. They’re not trying to harm anyone in any way.”

The conversation took place as the vaccination rollout in Utah progresses, but there are concerns that hesitancy among some groups will make it hard to obtain herd immunity.

In polls, Republican men are the group who most frequently say they won’t get the vaccine. And yet former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been vaccinated — as have all six of Utah’s members of Congress, who are Republican men.