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Committee Kills Vaccine Opt-Out Legislation


What happens when a vaccine for COVID-19 comes online? Tuesday, Republican lawmakers pushed legislation that would’ve limited mandates on immunizations.

According to Delegate Mark Cole, the Commissioner of Health shouldn’t have the authority to require vaccinations for people who’d object because of their religious beliefs. He says that rule would apply to a limited group of people.

“I think, you know, vast majority of people will certainly take immunizations and I think that would be enough to acquire herd immunity in the population,” Cole says.

Efforts from Cole and two of his colleagues were met with a resounding “no” from Democrats, including Delegate Mark Levine.

“You don’t have a right to kill somebody else. You just don’t. You don’t have a religious right to kill somebody else,” Levine says.

Commenting on a similar bill, State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake took a more measured tone with her objection.

“When there’s a new pathogen, a new virus that emerges in the population and people have not been exposed to it in the past, most people will not have natural immunity," Peake says.

Given the severity and potentially fatal consequences of COVID-19, Peake says vaccinating a large enough part of the population is critical to minimizing its spread.

Lawmakers might look at defining “religious freedom” during next year’s session – as there currently isn’t such a definition in Virginia’s code.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.