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Tennessee lawmakers introduce bill prohibiting authorities from forcing COVID vaccine

The proposed bill will be assigned to a committee during the next session.
Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 8:41 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2020 at 10:54 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An East Tennessee lawmaker proposed a bill that would prohibit a law enforcement agency or government entity from forcing individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

State Representative Bud Hulsey introduced House Bill 13 on Monday, Nov. 30.

According to the proposed bill, authorities “shall not force, require, or coerce a person to receive an immunization or vaccination for COVID-19 against the person’s will.”

As to why he proposed the bill, Hulsey told WVLT News: “Government always has a tendency to overreach and meddle and overcontrol.”

Even though Governor Bill Lee has said that he will not force anyone to get the vaccine, Hulsey says he is pushing for this legislation to give him and others a peace of mind and assurance that the governors word will remain true.

The Tennessee Representative says right now he does not plan on getting the vaccine, while citing that he wants to first learn more about it and what is all in it.

Could the federal government impose a mandatory vaccine?

Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, told TODAY almost certainly not, adding that the federal government has limited powers. Reiss, who studies legal and policy issues related to vaccines, said that, however, states and local governments do have more power where those issues are concerned. Even then, Reiss added, refusing vaccination could mean a fine, tax or other penalty.

“Nobody’s talking about coming to your house, holding you down and vaccinating you,” Reiss said.

Government advisors, such as top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, are not behind federally-mandated vaccinations.

In August, Fauci said, “You don’t want to mandate and try and force anyone to take the vaccine. We’ve never done that. You can mandate for certain groups of people like health workers, but for the general population you cannot … We don’t want to be mandating from the federal government to the general population. It would be unenforceable and not appropriate.”

Can states impose a mandatory vaccine?

States do have that power and have used it. According to TODAY, this ruling was decided in 1905 by the Supreme Court after a smallpox outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “State vaccination laws include vaccination requirements for children in public and private schools and daycare settings; college/university students; and healthcare workers and patients in certain facilities.”

In Tennessee, children who attend public schools are required to get vaccinated against numerous diseases, though the state does allow for certain exemptions. A full list of childhood immunization requirements in Tennessee are here.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has already announced that Tennesseans will not be forced to take any COVID-19 vaccine that becomes available. Lee also said that public schools will make the vaccine optional. Just last week, Tennessee officials revealed a plan that shows which members of the public--first responders and healthcare workers in this case--have access to the first batches of vaccinations.

Hulsey told WVLT News, “If the governor dies, God forbid, and the lieutenant governor steps in, I don’t know what the lieutenant governor’s convictions are. But I want to set the platform that it’s not going to happen in this state. You are not going to force people to take a medical procedure that they don’t want.”

Tennessee’s Lieutenant Governor is Randy McNally. McNally most recently retweeted a tweet from the Tennessee Department of Health saying, “We’re all tired of #COVID19, but the fact is: COVID-19 is not tired of us. This pandemic isn’t over & cases are still rising across the U.S,” on December 3.

Hulsey’s proposed bill will be assigned to a committee during the next session which begins January 12th.

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