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Banning school mandates for COVID-19 vaccines to get a floor vote


(The Center Square) – Prohibiting requirements of a COVID-19 vaccine in all Louisiana schools, public or private, will get a vote on the floor of the House of Representives.

Legislation advanced from the Education Committee on Wednesday with just one of 14 votes against the measure.

“The intent of this bill is to stop mandates that have anything to do with yay or nay on vaccines, but we just don’t like mandates,” said Rep. Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, author of the proposal. “The COVID vaccine is not on the list of required immunizations for schools. The state’s vaccination requirements are specific to diseases that are vaccine preventable. COVID is not a vaccine preventable disease.”

She said the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t prevent catching or transmitting the virus. She also cited U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings of major risks of heart damage to children, in particular, myocarditis.

Edmonston said the World Health Organization believes the vaccine “isn’t needed for healthy children.”

When asked by committee members if there were any public schools with a vaccine requirement, Edmondston said some of the charter schools in New Orleans and some institutions of higher education had them, but admitted that the number wasn’t many.

The bill language says requiring a vaccine for a student either as a condition of enrollment or continued attendance is not permitted.

Also supporting the bill was the nonprofit Health Freedom Louisiana and Gov. Jeff Landry’s office. Dr. Kathleen Willis told the committee that there is a “lack of long-term data on the safety and efficacy” of COVID-19 vaccines.

The bill was opposed by nonprofit Louisiana Families for Vaccines. Jennifer Herricks, a board member with a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics, told the committee that there are already exemptions for vaccines and she pushed back on Edmonston’s remark that COVID-19 wasn’t a vaccine preventable disease.

“The way we measured vaccine effectiveness was how much it reduced disease burden,” Herricks said. “COVID does that and it has been shown that it is safe and effective. I worry that if we start holding vaccines to this higher standard that we never have before, then suddenly many diseases become not vaccine preventable and we start dismantling our public health infrastructure.”

Edmonston filed a similar bill last year that was vetoed by then-Gov. John Bel Edwards and fell a few votes short of an override.

The committee also approved another vaccine-related measure, House Bill 47, without any objections. Edmonston also authored that measure, which would require that communication by school districts about immunization requirements include exemption information. The bill would also provide exemptions to students seeking to enroll in a school and students attending a school.

Herricks spoke against HB47 as well.