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Sununu: Vaccine freedom law does not prohibit vaccination mandates for public employees

By: - September 17, 2021 4:18 pm
Chris Sununu standing at a lectern

The state has no plans to require vaccinations of its public employees, a move Gov. Chris Sununu said would require legislation. (Courtesy)

A “medical freedom law” passed into law this summer does not prevent vaccine requirements for public employees, Gov. Chris Sununu said at a press conference this week.

Asked Wednesday about the new law, which states that “every person has the natural, essential, and inherent right to bodily integrity, free from any threat or compulsion by government to accept an immunization,” Sununu said that it would not necessarily apply to employees at public schools or government agencies.

“In New Hampshire, you already can mandate the vaccine, if that’s what you want to do as a business or a hospital or health care center, or whatever it might be,” Sununu said. “You can make those steps. Even school districts, if they made that choice, could look at those types of potential mandates.”

But some Republican lawmakers who helped pass the bill disagree with the governor’s interpretation.

“He will have to be corrected,” said Rep. Melissa Blasek, a Merrimack Republican. “Our intention was to stop state government from mandating any person be vaccinated, including employees. I would not agree with his interpretation as somebody who helped write that bill.”

Signed by Sununu in July, House Bill 220 prohibits any person from being “compelled to receive an immunization for COVID-19 in order to secure, receive, or access any public facility, any public benefit, or any public service from the state of New Hampshire, or any political subdivision thereof.”

Supporters of the bill had said that its intention was in part to prohibit “vaccine passports” – government mandates that required proof of vaccination. 

“Be careful: The bill really functionally says you cannot deny services based on vaccine or non-vaccine,” Sununu said in response to a reporter’s question. 

The state has no plans to require vaccinations of its public employees, a move Sununu said would require legislation.

“As an employer, we could mandate a vaccine, somehow, as the employer, or something, but again, that’s a legislative process,” he said.

New Hampshire’s teachers unions currently support vaccination requirements, though they have evolved in their thinking throughout the year. In August, the National Education Association of New Hampshire, the state’s largest teachers union, came out in favor of teacher vaccination requirements – a reversal from its earlier stance that the decision should be up to teachers. 

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.

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