By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky lawmakers have sent the House a bill to ensure that the state’s children are not required to get a Covid-19 vaccine and that this decision is the responsibility of the child’s parents and guardians.
The bill is designed to keep the Kentucky Department of Education from imposing the requirement by regulation, the bill’s sponsor told the March 2 House Health Services committee.
“What my fear is,” said Rep. Shawn McPherson, R-Scottsville, “is if we don’t decide that the parents or guardian is the one responsible for these children to receive Covid shots, then possibly when we get out of session, the KDE could recommend based on CDC recommendations that before kids go back to school next fall, they have to have a Covid shot.”
Fewer than half of Kentucky’s school-aged children are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and this rate decreases with age. The state Department for Public Health‘s latest weekly report said 17 percent of the 3,289 new coronavirus cases in Kentucky were in people 18 and younger.
The committee approved a revised bill that expanded the groups that cannot require a child to get the Covid-19 vaccination from the original bill, which only involved the education department.
It says: “No person, entity, corporation, company, organization, or government agency, public or private, shall require or coerce in any manner any child to receive a vaccination for Covid-19 or any mutated strain of the Covid-19 virus, other than the child’s parents, de facto or legal custodians or guardians.”
Rep. Rachel Roarx, D-Louisville, said she opposed the bill because government officials have a “social responsibility” to make sure people in public spaces are vaccinated against contagious diseaes.
“It’s of utmost importance for us to ensure that folks are vaccinated for public-health reasons. . . . For a long time in terms of public settings and public schools, we have required vaccinations, and there are alternatives if a family member does not wish to vaccinate, that’s why we have homeschool,” she said.
The committee chair, Rep. Kim Moser, R- Taylor Mill, said this bill is about parental choice.
“This in no way diminishes the value of vaccines, this just gives parents a choice in K-12 on for this specific vaccine,” she said. “This is being treated much like the flu vaccine, where the variant is different every season . . . That’s why we felt like it was important to give parents a choice and not mandate this.”
The committee approved the bill 14-3, with Roarx and fellow Democrats Lamin Swann of Lexington and Roarx and Lisa Willner of Louisville voting no.
The bill has received two of its three required readings and is posted for passage on the House floor Tuesday, March 7.