Peninsula lawmakers introduce bill to block vaccination requirements

A four story concrete building
Alaska State Capitol building (left) and Dimond Courthouse, Juneau, Alaska, January. 23, 2017. (Skip Gray/360 North)

Several Alaska Republican legislators have signed on to a bill defending what they call “COVID-19 immunization rights.”

Representatives Ben Carpenter of Nikiski, Sarah Vance of Homer and Chris Kurka of Wasilla are sponsoring House Bill 175.

The legislation would bar private businesses and public entities from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment unless the requirements are authorized by federal law.

A few employers in the state are requiring vaccines among their employees, though they’re in the minority. Attorneys say vaccine mandates are a legal gray area, particularly given that the shots are only authorized on an emergency basis.

But no lawsuits have popped up, yet.

The legislation fits into a national campaign by conservative lawmakers to push back, often preemptively, against vaccine mandates. Republican legislators in Ohio introduced a similar bill last week, and several states are considering so-called “Vaccine Bill of Rights” legislation.

Alaska’s proposed bill would also block businesses and public entities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access public areas, services or benefits. That includes public schools and University of Alaska campuses.

The legislation would not be effective any time the governor declares a state of emergency.

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