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Some States Are Working To Prevent COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

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Photo by Liz Sanders Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson promoted COVID-19 vaccinations at a community town hall at Arkansas State University Mountain Home (ASUMH) in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on July 16. Arkansas is one of several states that has passed laws prohibiting vaccine requirements.

As COVID-19 cases surge, the federal government and some private employers are requiring their workers to show proof of vaccination. Plus, certain cities and localities are once again requiring masks indoors.

Some states, however, are not just ordering more precautions, but already moving to stop vaccination mandates in the future.

Hemi Tewarson of the National Academy for State Health Policy is tracking state legislatures for such bills, and spoke to Morning Edition's A Martínez about what she's seeing. Notably:

  • As of late last week, 9 states have enacted 11 laws with prohibitions on vaccine mandates (Arizona and Arkansas have each enacted two).
  • They weren't all introduced or enacted at this stage of the pandemic — in fact, some were introduced back in February and March, and the most recent took effect in late June.
  • Some of these laws are tied only to vaccinations that have emergency use authorization, so the prohibition will no longer apply if the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines get full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • The laws don't prevent officials from encouraging vaccinations, only from requiring it. So governors in these states are still pushing for people to roll up their sleeves, just not ordering it.
  • The vast majority of these laws apply only to state and local governments, meaning private schools and employers in those states can still pass vaccine mandates.

Companies like Google, Netflix, Morgan Stanley and The Washington Post have recently announced vaccine requirements for their employees. Other businesses are using incentives like time off, lotteries and reduction in health care insurance.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi has this story on how private companies are navigating these decisions.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

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