New Bill Would Allow Exemptions For Immunizations in School-Aged Children

A new bill that was recently filed by Tennessee lawmaker, Representative Jay Reedy, would allow parents to refuse school-required vaccines for their children, even during an epidemic.

Currently, Tennessee law states that parents don’t have to vaccinate their children in order for them to attend school. However, that law is only applicable in the “absence of an epidemic or immediate threat thereof.”

That would mean that as the law stands today, children would have to receive a Covid-19 vaccine before getting to enroll in school, if it was required by the school.

If the new law goes into effect before a vaccine is readily available, parents would be able to refuse their children getting them. This would give parents the right to refuse the vaccine based on religion or “right of conscience.”

The bill that Reedy introduced would remove the stipulation of a pandemic, which would mean parents could refuse to give their children any school-required immunizations, and that could extend to any future Covid-19 vaccine.

The current law also states parents can refuse these vaccines unless the “immunization is necessary for the protection of the health and safety of others.” With Reedy’s new bill, this part of the law would also be deleted.

Since Covid-19 came to the United States several months ago, there have been debates over masks, mask mandates, and what a vaccine could mean.

During the past week, there have been a record number of cases and deaths in Tennessee. With how widespread the virus has become, epidemiologists have put their hopes of containment on a vaccine.

If Reedy’s bill passes, any state or local efforts to enforce this possible vaccine would be harder to enforce. Any immunization requirements for school-aged children would be limited under Reedy’s new law. The bill is still in early stages, and it could change before legislature meets in January.

As of now, the bill says, “a state agency or department shall not promulgate or enforce any rule, and a political subdivision of this state shall not promulgate, adopt, or enforce any ordinance or resolution that requires medical examination, immunization, or treatment on religious grounds or by right of conscience.”

This bill was announced just before health department director Dr. Lisa Piercey announced two rollout possibilities for a new vaccine.

During this announcement, Piercey said a vaccine could be in Tennessee as soon as the first of December. It would first be given to health care providers and at risk individuals. It could then be made available to the general population as early as this spring.

With the possibility of a vaccine in December, and Reedy’s bill not hitting legislature until January, it is hard to say how they will impact each other. There is also the possibility that the bill is passed long before we see a vaccine.

Reedy’s proposed bill is still in the early stages, so there could be changes to it before January. It could be altered to exclude the Covid-19 vaccine given the surge in cases, but is impossible to tell this early on.

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