The Bulletin Board

Amendment aims to expand exemptions from vaccine requirements

By: - November 15, 2021 12:35 pm
Closeup of a vaccine vial in a person's hand

Under current state law, parents may seek vaccine exemptions only for medical or religious reasons. (Joe Raedle | Getty Images)

This story was updated November 15, 2021  at 2:45 p.m. to include a comment from the governor. 

Lawmakers will hold a public hearing Tuesday on an amendment that would not only add private employers and schools to those disallowed from requiring vaccines but also create a conscientious objection exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine. 

That last one is not without precedent.

Widespread resistance to mandated vaccines led the United Kingdom in 1898 to add a “conscience” objection to its vaccine requirements. That option became the precursor to a “philosophical” exemption adopted by the United States and still recognized today by 15 states that allows a philosophical exemption to school immunization requirements. New Hampshire, which allows religious and medical exemptions from school vaccine requirements, is not among them. 

Rep. Timothy Lang, a Sanbornton Republican who has led the legislative effort to fight vaccine mandates, wants to change that and cited that history when asked about the amendment. As written by Rep. Rick Ladd, a Haverhill Republican, the prohibition on mandating vaccines would go beyond the state and local governments included in legislation Gov. Chris Sununu signed this year. 

It would essentially apply to every employer, including private schools, clubs, religious entities, nonprofits, corporations, a “joint stock company,” and “society.” It does not carve out county nursing homes and state-run hospitals and prisons as existing law does.

Sununu would not support such legislation, said spokesman Ben Vihstadt: “As the governor has repeatedly said, he is opposed to the government either prohibiting or mandating vaccines on private businesses.”

Ladd could not be immediately reached with questions about the amendment. 

The House Education Committee will take public comment on the amendment Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Representatives Hall at the State House.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.