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State Government News

Lawmakers advance bill prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine requirements for school and child care enrollment

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An Iowa House Subcommittee has advanced a bill prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine requirements for enrollment in schools or licensed child care centers.

A House subcommittee has advanced a bill that would prohibit the state’s public universities, schools and licensed child care centers from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine in order for kids to be enrolled.

The bill would prohibit any COVID-19 vaccine requirement until July 1, 2029.

It advanced through the House Education Subcommittee along party lines on Tuesday.

Rep. Henry Stone, R-Forest City, supported the bill but said he felt there could be more discussion around the end date.

"This is about a parent's choice of what they give their children and that no child should be subject to getting an education based on this immunization itself," he said.

Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines, opposed the bill, saying the option to mandate the vaccine should be left open.

"I don't think we need to mandate anything, nor do I think we should prohibit it. I think it should be school control or local control," she said.

Chaney Yeast, a lobbyist with Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, also spoke against the bill.

She said the number of children hospitalized with the virus has doubled there in the past two months due to the omicron variant.

"I don't think we should be passing legislation in the middle of a pandemic, as we are learning about the variants that continue to evolve, and their impact on children," she said.

Last week, Polk County health officials and a pediatrician from Blank Children's Hospital held a press conference urging more parents to vaccinate their children, as the number of children hospitalized with the virus has increased due to the omicron variant.

According to state data, 19 percent of Iowa's 5- to 11-year-olds, 44 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds and 48 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated.