Republican Louisiana lawmakers have taken aim at the coronavirus vaccine, sending Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards two bills that would keep state and local government agencies from mandating the immunization in order to receive certain services.
Separate votes Monday gave final passage to the the anti-vaccine proposals from Republican Reps. Danny McCormick and Kathy Edmonston. Edwards — who has championed the vaccine and is regularly urging his state's residents to get the shot — hasn't taken a position on the legislation, and no agency in his administration has publicly proposed requiring the immunization for services.
"He will review the bills when they reach his desk and see how they conform with recommendations from doctors and public health experts as well with current Louisiana law relating to vaccines, which does allow for certain exemptions," Edwards spokesperson Christina Stephens said in a statement.
But Stephens' statement also defended the coronavirus vaccines as safe and effective and said they "have already saved lives and are our way out of this pandemic."
McCormick's proposal would ban agencies from refusing to give a permit, business license or professional license to someone based solely on a business' decision that it won't require the coronavirus vaccine for employees or customers. It also would give employers a broad exemption from civil lawsuits if they don't require workers or customers to get the coronavirus vaccine and someone contracts COVID-19.
A 23-12 Senate vote Monday sent the bill by the Oil City Republican to the governor's desk. The House earlier had backed the legislation in a 65-27 vote.
Edmonston's proposal would prohibit the state Office of Motor Vehicles from requiring someone to be vaccinated to get a driver's license or state-issued identification cards or to put immunization information on that license or ID card. It would cover all vaccinations, not just the coronavirus vaccine.
The House voted 71-18 for the bill by the Gonzales Republican. A 33-3 vote of the Senate on Monday gave the measure final passage.
Edmonston's proposal appears to be largely moot. Staci Hoyt, deputy commissioner with the Office of Motor Vehicles, testified during committee debate that the agency can't add anything to the license or a state-issued ID card or add requirements for getting one without lawmakers authorizing it.
Also nearing final passage is a second Edmonston bill that would prohibit state and local government agencies from refusing to issue licenses, permits and degrees or barring access to public facilities — such as college campuses or state office buildings — to someone who isn't vaccinated against COVID-19. The ban would only remain in place until the vaccination has full authorization from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. Current coronavirus vaccines are authorized under an emergency use regulation from the FDA.