ATLANTA — Some Republicans in Georgia’s senate want to make sure public schools never require COVID vaccines for students or teachers. The bill’s sponsor said it’s unclear whether vaccines work, despite support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the World Health Organization.
The vaccine bill quickly drew strong criticism, forcing the bill’s primary sponsor to walk things back, at least a little bit.
The measure comes from the nationwide movement to resist COVID vaccines – despite strong evidence the shots are safe and effective.
"I was aghast. I was horrified," Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) said when she first saw the bill.
The bill states “no (government) agency shall require proof of any vaccination of any person," including public school districts.
"I was very concerned to see this legislation that would completely take vaccines out of our schools," Rep. Anulewicz said.
For years, public schools have required childhood vaccinations of their students.
"I think the whooping cough and polio and measles, they probably need to stay the same. Because we’ve nearly eradicated a lot of that," Sen. Jeff Mullis said.
Sen. Mullis said he will rewrite the bill – but intends to still try to make it illegal for schools to require COVID vaccines.
"I’m talking about COVID only," he said.
Epidemiologist Rebecca Mitchell said data shows vaccines have saved lives.
"We have had longtime community buy-in that what we do with our vaccine programs is we protect people," Mitchell said.
Rep. Anulewicz added she doesn't think this is the last type of this kind of anti-vaccine legislation.
As chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Mullis is one of the most powerful Republicans in the Capitol. Before he announced he would change it, half of the Republicans serving in the senate cosponsored Mullis’ vaccine bill.