Bill would add religious exemption if coronavirus vaccine becomes mandatory in Virginia

Last week, Virginia's Commissioner of Health said he would mandate a coronavirus vaccination

(AP Photo/LM Otero) (Lm Otero, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

RICHMOND, Va. – A Virginia delegate is working to make sure people’s religious liberties are not violated by an expected coronavirus vaccine.

Republican Delegate Wendell Walker, who represents parts of Lynchburg, Amherst County and Bedford County, is co-sponsoring a bill that would create a religious exemption to a coronavirus vaccine.

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House Bill 5016, introduced during the current special session, “eliminates the authority of the Commissioner of Health to require immunization of individuals who object to such administration on religious grounds,” according to Walker.

This follows last week’s announcement that Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia’s Commissioner of Health, that when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, he plans to make it mandatory for all Virginians, according to WRIC.

“No person of faith should be mandated to take a potential drug that has been rammed through an expedited development process,” Walker wrote on his Facebook post regarding the bill.

Currently, here’s how the law reads regarding the power of the Commissioner of Health in an epidemic:

Nothing in this article shall preclude the Commissioner from requiring immediate immunization of all persons in case of an epidemic of any disease of public health importance for which a vaccine exists other than a person to whose health the administration of a vaccine would be detrimental as certified in writing by a physician licensed to practice medicine in this Commonwealth.

Code of Virginia, 32.1-48 - A

Walker’s bill, if it were to become a law would add the following language:

“... as certified in writing by a physician licensed to practice medicine in this Commonwealth or a person who objects to administration of such vaccination on religious grounds.

Code of Virginia, 32.1-48 - A, as proposed in HB5016

As of August 14, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

About the Author

Nicole Del Rosario joined WSLS 10 in August 2020.

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