Ban on COVID vaccine mandates for government employees, students passes House committee
State and local governments in North Carolina would be barred from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for employees or students under a bill passed March 21 by the House Health Committee.
House Bill 98, Medical Freedom Act, would ban discrimination against employees or prospective employees based on their COVID-19 vaccination status. The measure also prohibits public school systems from requiring the vaccine for K-12 students or for students enrolled in public colleges and universities. The bill allows private businesses to set their policies on vaccine requirements.
“This is not an anti-vaccine bill. It’s a medical freedom [bill],” said Rep. Brian Biggs, R-Randolph, a primary sponsor of the measure. “This does not say you can’t get the vaccine, if you choose to do so. This gives people a choice.”
On Feb. 9, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new vaccine schedule for children six months and older that included the COVID-19 vaccine. Biggs pointed to that news as evidence that state-level action is needed to ensure freedom in medical decisions.
“I do support the freedom to decide one way or the other and I decided to get it, but that’s my choice,” said Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth.
Rep. Sarah Crawford, D-Wake, asked why H.B. 98 is necessary when there are religious and medical exemptions for the vaccine under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“If we do have a medical and religious exemption in place, is any of this necessary if people can get the exemption relatively easily?” Crawford asked.
Biggs responded that some people have difficulty successfully being granted exemptions on those grounds.
“My son goes to a private college, and the religious exemption was not accepted and I am the one who had it drafted by an attorney,” he said. “So, it’s up to the institution whether they accept it.”