On Tuesday, a group of South Carolina lawmakers put forward a proposal to ban COVID-19 vaccinations for state and local government officials, contractors and public school students.
A bill considered by the Methods and Tools subcommittee would effectively make such vaccine prescriptions illegal for government or local officials, contractors and first responders. Under this proposal, school districts will also not be able to require students to give injections.
The bill also prohibits private companies from suspending or firing employees who have not received the vaccine, although it allows these employers to require weekly testing to comply with any federal regulations. The law compensates for these employers’ expenses by providing $ 10 million to the Department of Health and Environment and the University of South Carolina for weekly tests.
“Ultimately, this issue boils down to freedom. It boils down to freedom, ”said Rep. Stuart Jones, a Lawrence-based Republican who is sponsoring the bill. Jones was also a legislator who proposed an effective ban on the use of masks in public schools earlier this year, which was later challenged in court.
According to the state health department, about 50% of South Carolina residents ages 5 and older have completed their COVID-19 vaccination. Across the country, about 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated against the disease.
Before voting on this measure, lawmakers heard only a handful of speakers, including a Charleston firefighter, a nurse, and a lawyer, all of whom objected to measures taken by their employers requiring workers to be vaccinated against the highly contagious virus.
Legislative efforts come as federal vaccine orders from the Biden administration affecting the private sector are being held in courts across the country.
The House of Representatives intends to bypass its typical rules and consider the bill in a special meeting on Thursday, just hours after the full Ways and Means committee is expected to pass.
Even if the House of Representatives agrees with the proposal, senators said on Tuesday that they have no plans to return to the State House before the next 2022 session, which begins on January 11.