NC Republican lawmakers take aim at COVID vaccine mandates
Government agencies, schools and universities would no longer be able to require COVID-19 vaccines under a bill that passed an N.C. House committee Tuesday.
The bill would ban state and local government agencies from requiring their employees to submit proof that they’ve been vaccinated. Public schools, state universities and community colleges also couldn’t require COVID vaccines for their students and staff.
“I don’t feel comfortable having the government say you have to take this vaccine,” said Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Because we’re talking about tens of thousands of state government and local government employees. Many of them are not in the health care realm.”
The bill has exceptions that allow some health care facilities to require staff vaccinations. An earlier version of the bill also had a provision banning public schools from requiring masks, but that language was removed Tuesday.
Some Democrats voted against the legislation, arguing that the current system for religious and medical exemptions is working. But supporters say the exemptions are hard to get.
Another bill sponsor, Rep. Brian Biggs, R-Randolph, said his son attends a private college that rejected his request for an exemption.
And Hardister says he’s heard from local government employees who received an exemption but, as a result, they have to take regular nasal swab tests for COVID-19. “I know people that have quit their job for that reason,” he said.
Biggs argued that the low number of people who received updated Omicron COVID booster shots shows waning support for mandates.
“Only 22% of our state is fully boosted,” he said. “The numbers speak for themselves. That’s all the poll you need.”
Biggs said the state’s Department of Health and Human Services does not oppose the majority of the bill. But a spokeswoman from the agency declined to comment on the bill when asked Tuesday afternoon.