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House committee considers vaccine bills

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 9:11 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -A House of Delegates committee has defeated measures that would limit the state’s ability to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.

The bills were the work of Republican lawmakers reacting to a recent statement from Virginia Health Commissioner Norm Oliver. Last week, he said it was his intention to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

Tuesday morning, the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions considered bills that would allow people to opt out on religious grounds.

While Governor Ralph Northam has said he doesn’t anticipate a vaccine requirement at this time, health experts say widespread immunizations are important.

Democrats argued lawmakers shouldn’t pass legislation that would discourage anyone from receiving one.

“And I would hope if someone intentionally doesn’t take a vaccine, and contracts this disease, knowingly and intentionally goes out in public, and kills someone, I hope they’re sued for wrongful death, or possibly even criminal penalties,” said Delegate Mark Levine (D-Alexandria). “So I certainly don’t want to go in the other direction and make it easier for people to kill people.”

“It doesn’t equate with drunk driving and going out and killing people,” countered Marsha Lessard, director of education and advocacy for the group Virginia Freedom Keepers . “We know that this is something that should absolutely be upheld for liberty and for our individual right as citizens of Virginia. We should be able to make our own medical choices.”

Democrats hold the majority in both chambers, and on the committee, so the Republican measures failed.

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