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With a recent potential Hepatitis A exposure at a downtown restaurant, some wonder why current regulation does not mandate food service workers be vaccinated before working in a restaurant.
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Health Officials discuss whether to mandate Hep. A vaccination after outbreak

FILE PHOTO (Tobias Arhelger, Adobe Stock)

SALT LAKE CITY — With a recent potential Hepatitis A exposure at a downtown restaurant, some wonder why current regulation does not mandate the vaccination for food service workers before working in a restaurant.

A preemptive requirement for vaccination prior to working with food is not without precedent.

“There are a couple jurisdictions across the country that do require Hepatitis A vaccine for food workers,” says Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp. “But it’s not something that is required in Utah”

The Salt Lake County Board of Health does want to get out in front of such an exposure, but does not currently feel comfortable requiring all restaurant workers get the Hepatitis A vaccination. Several factors affect this position, mainly feedback from restaurant owners.

“Requiring all of their workers to receive a Hep A vaccine would be very challenging for them to get staff,” says Rupp. “The cost associated with vaccine, while pretty minimal, is more than many of them feel they could absorb and still operate their restaurant because so many restaurants do operate on such a razor-thin margin.”

Around the start of the outbreak last May, the Board of Health amended food service regulations to require all restaurant workers where an exposure may have happened to receive the vaccination. The Health Department feels this change is better than nothing.

“The fact that our outbreak is slowing tells me it was the right thing to do,” Rupp says.

If the situation ever does call for preemptively requiring the Hepatitis A vaccination for all restaurant workers, it would be a decision completely up to health officials.

Rupp says, “That’s something the Board of Health will look at as the outbreak continues.”