Sunday, March 31, 2024

State House kills bill that would have banned Covid-19 vaccine mandates, after it takes a fast, unusual trip through the Senate

Kentucky Health News

A bill that would have banned Covid-19 vaccines from being required for employment, student enrollment or activities, or medical treatment and licensing, died a quiet death in the state House after a fast and unusual trip through the Senate in the closing days of the legislative session.

The sponsor used misleading information in committee, some of her Republican colleagues made speeches on the Senate floor against it, and after it passed, her news release was changed because it cited a study that had been withdrawn from publication by a scientific journal. All in less than a week.

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor (LRC photo)
Senate Bill 295, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, passed the Senate 25-11 on March 26 but was never given a committee assignment in the House.

When Tichenor presented the bill to the Senate Health Services Committee, she said "mass vaccination mandates" have caused an "unprecedented rise . . . in sudden deaths among all ages" and said the number of "deaths and adverse events" reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) "total more than all other vaccines combined" since the system started in 1990.

There have been no mass mandates ijn the U.S. for any the Covid-19 vaccines, though some employers and schools have required them. Anyone can file a report with VAERS, without any supporting documentation, and  claims are then evaluated by VAERS staff to determine if intervention is needed.

"Anti-vaccination fringe groups have attempted to spin false stories using VAERS data, adding to misinformation about the safety of Covid-19 vaccinations," reports Amy Dusto of Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says:
  • The benefits of Covid-19 vaccination continue to outweigh any potential risks.
  • Severe reactions after Covid-19 vaccination are rare.
  • CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated to protect against Covid-19 and its potentially severe complications.
  • Millions of people in the United States have received Covid-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history.
  • CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies continue to monitor the safety of Covid-19 vaccines.
Nevertheless, Sen. Donald Douglas of Nicholasville, a physician, praised Tichenor for filing the bill. "This is a place where most people would want to go," he said. "They don't want to take the heat." The committee passed the bill by a vote of 8-2.

On the Senate floor, Tichenor said the bill protects “individual liberties,” but some of her colleagues said employers, especially those in health care, should be able to require vaccination.

“With passage of this legislation, we’re saying a hospital cannot require their employees to have any Covid-19 vaccine,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens, R-Greensburg.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill (Christian County), said the bill would tie business owners’ hands. “That’s wrong,” he said. “They might want to require this. They might absolutely not require this. They should be allowed to make that decision.” He added, “We should be very careful about bills” that boost conspiracy theories.

After the bill passed the Senate 25-11, the office of the Senate Republican majority issued a press release about it, but withdrew parts of it after being told that a study it cited "had been retracted by a scientific journal," report Alex Acquisto and Austin Horn of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In the release, "Tichenor said the vaccine was 'ineffective and dangerous' and linked to a research paper buttressing her point, saying, 'Reports supporting the need for this legislation may be found here.' But that paper had been formally retracted on Feb. 26 for drawing 'unreliable' conclusions, 'concerns with the validity of some of the cited references,' as well as a 'misrepresentation' of data," Acquisto and Horn report. "Senate GOP staff later sent a statement from Tichenor calling it a 'simple error'." She also said the authors of the paper are filing a lawsuit for "unethical retraction."

Only one of the paper's seven authors "is currently employed at an academic institution," Acqutso and Horn report, and "that author, Stephanie Seneff, has long been an anti-vaccine advocate. She has made the false claim that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine causes autism."

Tichenor acknowledged Thursday that her bill was dead. Asked if she had tried to attach it to another bill, in order to get it before the House, she said, "I had tagged it on, but it didn't stick."

Information for this story was also gathered by Sarah Ladd of the Kentucky Lantern.

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