By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services
State senators voted Tuesday to forever bar the state Department of Health Services from requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid to attend school.
The 16-14 party-line vote, with all Republicans in favor, came despite the fact that there is currently no such mandate. Nor were they swayed by arguments that adding a Covid requirement to the list of what students are supposed to be inoculated against is a complex process with public input.
HB 2086 was one of three Covid-related measures approved Tuesday by the Senate.
Lawmakers also voted to make it illegal for any level of government that gets public funds from requiring visitors to wear a mask or any face covering.
HB 2453 is clearly aimed at what happened after the outbreak of Covid. That’s because the measure, which already has been approved in similar form by the House, contains an exception for “long-standing workplace safety and infection control measures that are unrelated to COVID-19.”
Senators also took aim at the vaccines for the virus, at least as it relates to children.
HB 2371 would make it a crime for government agencies to require anyone younger than 18 to be vaccinated against Covid or any variant without the consent of a parent or guardian. And it even would allow county attorneys to prosecute anyone who violated the law.
But the debate on the Senate floor was about HB 2086.
Aside from restricting the ability of the state health department to impose a Covid vaccine mandate for school attendance, it also would prohibit schools from requiring students to be immunized against Covid to attend in-person classes.
The measure was crafted by Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear.
“This is not a childhood disease,” she said in pushing the plan through the House Health and Human Services Committee, which she chairs, in February. By contrast, the current requirements for vaccination cover disease ranging from mumps and rubella to chickenpox and measles.
Osborne, however, made it clear that her HB 2086 has a message beyond the vaccine itself.
“We just have got to stop fear from being continuously in our children’s minds,” she said.