Bills shielding Louisiana residents who refuse COVID-19 vaccine await John Bel Edwards’ response

By: - June 15, 2021 1:43 pm

COVID-19 vaccine is stored at -80 degrees celsius in the pharmacy at Roseland Community Hospital on December 18, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Louisiana Legislature passed bills that protect residents and employees who decline the COVID-19 vaccine, but Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press conference immediately following the 2021 Legislative Session the bills “will have a high bar… to meet my approval.”

“We have to make sure that we’re adequately protecting public safety,” Edwards said in a press conference immediately following the 2021 Legislative Session. “And the things we do in Louisiana reflect the best science and medicine available.”

One of those bills, House Bill 498, would prohibit Louisiana state or local governments from distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated residents.

Rep. Kathy Edmonston (R-Gonzales), who sponsored House Bill 498, said during a House Committee meeting last month she introduced the bill because of “numerous calls from students, parents and citizens in Louisiana related to required or mandated COVID vaccines and testing.”

“They felt that the coercive nature of the communication they received (from their schools) impacted their own right to make medical decisions for themselves,” Edmonston said.

House Bill 498 passed in the Louisiana Senate by a 25-10 vote on the last day of session and in the Louisiana House 71-28. The bill was amended to only apply while the COVID-19 vaccines are under emergency use authorization. The law will expire when “the FDA approves the experimental drug and it is scientifically proven to be safe and effective,” Edmonston said from the House floor.

Edmonston’s bill does not apply to immunization requirements in schools or hospitals.

House Bill 103, authored by Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Oil City), also passed both chambers. The bill would shield business owners from liability if they don’t mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for their employees or customers.

Each of the three available COVID-19 vaccines has been granted an emergency-use authorization by the FDA.  Whether that means the vaccines are “experimental” is unclear. A fact-check published by Reuters says the claim that the vaccines are experimental “is not true – they have all been put through standard safety testing before being rolled out to the public.” 

For the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the first to be granted emergency use authorization “FDA evaluated and analyzed the safety and effectiveness data from clinical trials conducted in tens of thousands of study participants and manufacturing information submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech,” the agency says on its website. “FDA has determined that the totality of the available data provides clear evidence that Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine may be effective in preventing COVID-19 and support that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine’s use in millions of people 16 years of age and older, including healthy individuals.”

The agency considers it highly unlikely that a vaccine granted emergency use authorization will not be ultimately approved, explaining on the website that “it is expected that the data supporting the EUA, together with those that will be collected during use of vaccine under EUA, and additional data collected from ongoing trials will be sufficient to support licensure (approval) of a vaccine authorized under EUA.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.