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Proposed Bill Gives Businesses The Power To Mandate Vaccines, Not The State

A photo of small bottles labeled 'COVID-19 Vaccine' and a needle.
Utah will administer its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine this week, and a state lawmaker wants to reassure residents that the state won’t require them to get one.

Utah Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, is planning to introduce a bill that would prohibit the state government from mandating a COVID-19 vaccine for the general public. It would, however, allow private businesses to require vaccinations.

“It's important for the government to, as much as possible, leave these decisions to individuals and to those organizations,” Spendlove said. “If an organization feels like it's important to require this for their employees or for participants in an activity, I don't think it's [the] government's place to be stepping in and saying that they can't do that.”

Gov. Gary Herbert and Gov.-elect Spencer Cox have both said they would not mandate the vaccine. But Spendlove said he wants to reassure the public by putting that promise into law.

“It's consistent with what the governor and other state leaders have said all along,” he said. “It's just a kind of a marker to make people feel more comfortable with the vaccines and with the process.”

Lawmakers are still discussing, though, whether to require vaccines in universities and K-12 schools, according to Spendlove.

He said he would be in favor of requiring vaccinations for students who want to attend school in-person, with some exceptions.

“There needs to be some kind of an opt out for people that have religious or health concerns,” he said. “Maybe what we do is we have an option for students that don't want to attend in person or don't want to receive the vaccine ... but then they just won't be allowed to attend classes in person.”

Cox said he supports the bill in concept because it “seems like an appropriate balance.” He wasn’t so sure, however, about whether the state should mandate the vaccine in schools and universities.

“This is where freedom and liberty clash with the rights of others,” Cox said. “This concept that I'm free to do whatever I want for me and for my family, as long as it doesn't harm others ... I've never been in favor of compulsory vaccinations. I do believe in vaccinations. And I think people should absolutely be vaccinating.”

The bill, which is still being drafted, is expected to be introduced during the General Session early next year.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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