Anti-mandate bill passes Mississippi House

Published 1:00 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

The Mississippi House of Representatives took up and passed legislation Thursday that would prevent private companies from forcing employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination over “sincerely held religious objections.”

House Bill 1509 — introduced by Speaker Philip Gunn and co-sponsored by 18 other Republicans — was voted on after emerging from the Committee on Public Health and Human Services. It passed 75-41, with six abstaining. Lincoln County representatives Vince Mangold and Becky Currie were among the “yea” votes.

A motion to reconsider was entered by Democrat John Gary Faulkner who voted “nay,” and Republicans Sam C. Mims V and Missy Warren McGee, who both voted in support of the bill.

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The vote comes in a week where approximately 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been posted daily.

Mississippi’s 10th COVID-related pediatric death also occurred during the same week.

Since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Mississippi in March of 2020, the MSDH has reported the following pediatric deaths:

• 1 infant (under age 1)

• 2 in the 1-5 year age range

• 1 death, 6-10 range

• 6 deaths, 11-17  range

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said vaccination is the best protection for children who are eligible to receive it.

All pediatric deaths in Mississippi from COVID-19 have been among the unvaccinated. Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates. The vaccination rate in Mississippi for children lags behind the national rate of 54%.

“Every pediatric death is a tragedy. Every child was unvaccinated. Many too young to be eligible,” Dr. Anita Henderson, president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a tweet following the announcement. “Children depend on the adults around them for protection. Please … get vaccinated and boosted if eligible.”

Mississippi also has the highest COVID-19 death rate in that nation.

The vast majority of deaths in the state have been among the elderly.

COVID-19 vaccines are now available for any child five years of age and older at all county health departments. MSDH recommends that all those over 12 receive booster shots to prevent hospitalizations and death.