A bill to ban state agencies and entities from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine passed through the House Wednesday morning. The bill was ushered in with an 83-14 vote. With an emergency clause attached, the bill is expected to take effect immediately once Gov. Sarah Sanders approves it.
The Senate approved a similar bill earlier this week.
Rep. Howard Beaty (R-Crossett) presented the bill to the House Wednesday. The move to prohibit these vaccinations would merely extend 2021 legislation that has since expired, Beaty said a in previous committee discussion. It would also, however, require the Arkansas Department of Health to share information about the potential risks of the vaccine.
Reports from University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences show Arkansans are already hesitant to receive the immunization; a 2022 report examined the hesitancy of 1,500 adult residents who received the vaccine, and determined that about one-third of the participants reported some level of hesitancy. Rep. Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock) on Wednesday expressed concerns the bill would lead residents “to believe the vaccine is faulty and therefore decide against receiving a simple, safe and effective shot that could very well save their life.”
With the proposed legislation, any state agency or entity — including counties, cities and schools — would be prohibited from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. McCullough, who was the only one to speak against the bill Wednesday, also said lawmakers should not determine health care decisions for individuals.
“We make those decisions every session for Arkansans when we shouldn’t be,” she said. “It seems that we’re fine with making health care decisions for families in Arkansas just as long as it meets a certain agenda.”
Before the vote, Beaty told his colleagues: “We should thank our governor for the foresight to stand up against Washington and the politics that we’re seeing there, and the threat of a mandate pushed down and pulling federal funds back from this state.”