Georgia senators vote to bar COVID-19 vaccine requirements


ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia senators voted Tuesday to permanently block schools and most state and local government agencies from requiring people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Senate voted 31-21 in favor of the bill, which would make permanent what had been a one-year ban enacted in 2022.

Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Republican from Cumming who is sponsoring the measure, said that when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine at least, the government shouldn't be able to force anyone to get it, or refuse services to people who are unvaccinated.

“I don't believe that government should discriminate against citizens based on COVID-19 vaccinations,” Dolezal said.

The current one-year ban was part of a broad conservative nationwide backlash against mandates, but it would expire on June 30 in Georgia if lawmakers don’t extend it.

The measure bars state agencies, local governments, schools and colleges from requiring proof of vaccination. But because governments and schools can't require proof, they can't enforce mandates.

Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican and medical doctor, argues that because COVID-19 has grown less severe, a mandate isn't needed.

“The science certainly has evolved, the disease certainly has evolved," Watson said.

Democrats argued that the toll of the illness has declined in part because of vaccines and other public health measures. They warned there's no guarantee that the virus will stay less lethal.

“This virus is still mutating,” said Sen. Sally Harrell, an Atlanta Democrat.

Dolezal has said he plans a separate bill that would make permanent the existing five-year ban on schools being able to require children to wear masks.


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