ARKANSAS, USA — Arkansas lawmakers have passed a bill on Thursday that prohibits the state from mandating someone to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The special session called by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders was said to be spotlighting tax cuts and redefining state FOIA laws. While the controversial FOIA bill has run into some roadblocks, the ban on vaccine mandates for COVID-19 was filed and subsequently sailed through the Senate and House.
State Senator Joshua Bryant (R-Rogers) is the lead sponsor of the bill, which adds the following section to the Arkansas Code:
Prohibition on requirement for vaccine or immunization for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) or any subvariants of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)
The bill bans the State of Arkansas, a state agency or entity, a political subdivision of the state, or a state or local official from mandating or requiring someone to receive any type of COVID-19 vaccine. It goes on to specify that getting the vaccine can't be a condition of "education, employment, entry, or services from the state or a state agency or entity" for obtaining a licensure, certificate, or permit from a state agency.
The Department of Health is also to make the "potential risks and harms associated" with the COVID-19 vaccine publicly available.
Under the bill, it's also unlawful for the state (agencies, entities, etc.) to discriminate against someone refusing to get the vaccine or to coerce them for not wanting to get vaccinated against COVID-19. That includes withholding career advancement, salary, insurance, etc. for those who choose to not get the vaccine.
The only time a state agency can require an individual to get a COVID-19 vaccine would be if they got approval from the Legislative Council.
On Tuesday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed new COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older. The updated shots were made in the same way flu shots are updated each year. The FDA gave COVID-19 vaccine makers a new recipe for this fall. These shots have a single target, an omicron descendant named XBB.1.5.