The Georgia Senate on Tuesday approved a measure to prohibit schools and most state and local government agencies from mandating coronavirus vaccines.
The legislation, Georgia State Senate Bill 1, passed the state Senate 31-21. The bill would not apply to health care providers subject to federal requirements that employees must be vaccinated to continue receiving federal payments.
A one-year moratorium on vaccine requirements was enacted last year, and this bill would make that measure permanent.
“We lived for a year under the previous version of this law,” said Republican state Sen. Greg Dolezal, the bill’s lead sponsor. “This law is set to sunset this summer so we just lifted the sunset and said we will never live another day in Georgia where governments deny services to their constituents based on whether Whether they have received the COVID-19 vaccine or not.”
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Dolezal said she doesn’t believe the government should “discriminate against citizens” based on their vaccination status.
The current one-year ban, imposed in 2022, is set to expire on June 30.
“We know there is a movement in America to demonize vaccination and to do it in the name of individual rights,” said Democrat Sen. Nan O’Rourke, adding that lawmakers who voted in favor of the new bill “Essentially signing the anti-terror. vaccination movement” and tying the government’s hands to make COVID-19 worse again.
The bill prohibits state agencies, local governments, schools and colleges from requiring proof of vaccination.
“When we throw bills to the floor and vote on them in the General Assembly that further undermine public confidence in vaccines and public health initiatives, I think that in the long run we Everyone is at risk.” Orrock said. “That’s not wise.”
Republican Senator Ben Watson, a medical doctor, said a mandate is not needed because the virus has become less severe.
“The science has certainly evolved, the disease has certainly evolved,” Watson said.
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Democrats, meanwhile, claim that thanks to vaccines and other public safety measures, COVID-19 is less deadly, and there’s no guarantee the virus will stay that way.
The bill now goes to the state House for consideration.
Dolezal has said she plans to introduce a separate bill to make the current five-year ban on school mask mandates permanent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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