The Bulletin Board

Lawmakers take up ‘vaccine freedom’ measures

By: - May 19, 2021 5:52 pm
A person receives a vaccine

Only about 37 percent of residents ages 12-19 are fully vaccinated. (Getty Images)

A Senate committee put limits around one “vaccine freedom” bill Wednesday, but another much broader one may be headed over from the House. 

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed an amended version of House Bill 220, which seeks to allow most people to refuse any vaccine or medical intervention. The amended version limits the bill to COVID-19 vaccines; eliminates the right to refuse medical intervention; covers only governmental entities, not private employers; and allows county nursing homes, the state hospital, and the state prison to still mandate vaccination and medical interventions.

The amended bill also creates a committee to study policies for medical intervention and immunizations.

Next up is Rep. Terry Roy’s last-minute, unrelated amendment to Senate Bill 155, which addresses the governor’s pandemic-related emergency orders. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee took nearly three hours of testimony on the amendment Tuesday. Roy, a Deerfield Republican, chaired Tuesday’s public hearing over objections of committee members and refused to take questions after testifying on his amendment.

Roy’s amendment is wide-reaching: It prohibits private and public K-12 schools, colleges, and employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations and prevents most public and private “entities” from asking about a person’s vaccination status. 

It would also outlaw sharing anyone’s vaccination status without permission and a vaccine registry, something the federal government requires for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Like the public hearing on House Bill 220, Tuesday’s hearing included testimony from liberty rights advocates and out-of-state doctors, one of whom said the vaccine shouldn’t be mandated for anyone under 65 because for them COVID-19 is 99.99 percent survivable. He did not mention COVID-19 long-haul symptoms that occur among all ages and can be prevented by the vaccine, according to the CDC. He also claimed 4,000 people have died from the vaccine, something the CDC has said is not true.

When Beth Daly, chief of the state Bureau of Infectious Disease, called the testimony “psuedo-science” and inaccurate, Roy asked her to refrain from characterizing others’ testimony and to “stick with what you know.” Daly replied, “I do think it’s within the realm of my testimony to tell you when things are not true. It’s not true, and it’s dangerous to imply or say otherwise.”

Sen. Tom Sherman, a Rye Democrat who is also a gastroenterologist, testified against Roy’s bill and raised the same concerns in committee on Senate Bill 155. An individual’s liberty, he said, should end where it puts others in danger.

“A vaccine benefits everyone – these are infectious diseases,” Sherman said. “The science, the public health reasons, the studies, and everything else shows to be life-saving and can improve the quality of life. Long-haul COVID is not a place you want to be. You may survive COVID, but you may have it for the rest of your life. Let’s follow the science because it’s very clear.”

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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.