The House passed a bill prohibiting government-mandated vaccines for COVID-19 or any of its variants. As amended, the bill would also exempt PreK-12 students from having to receive the vaccine in order to attend any schools or child care facilities. It would also strike the law that makes it a Class C misdemeanor for anyone who refuses to be vaccinated or refuses to vaccinate someone under their care.
Furthermore, this bill would prohibit state government and agencies from mandating a person undergo medical treatment if they object based on religious grounds or their right of conscience. However, the bill wouldn’t protect college or university students enrolled in programs or fields of study involving healthcare professions such as medicine, dentistry, or pharmacy.
State Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) and State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) sponsored the legislation.
During the final hearing on the House floor, Hulsey’s description of the amendments exempting certain individuals involved in health care from COVID-19 vaccine mandates implied that they were changes instigated by input from hospitals and higher education. His explanation prompted laughter.
“This bill says that state government, or local government, cannot force people to take the COVID-19 vaccine against their will,” explained Hulsey. “Now, the amendments say, ‘Well, yeah [the government] can, and here’s who they can do it to: 45 hospitals, and those employees in those 45 government-owned hospitals – they can be forced. And medical students in higher education, dental students, pharmacy students, and medical care students – they are also exempted out of this bill.’”