HARRISBURG – As mandates continue to be imposed under the auspices of addressing COVID-19, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee voted to approve legislation that prohibits Pennsylvania state and local governments from mandating an individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, said bill sponsor Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33).
“Along with Senator Hutchinson (R-21), I introduced this legislation back in March out of concern that the COVID-19 vaccine would soon be mandated for access to services, access to education, or as a condition of employment,” said Sen. Mastriano. “Sadly, those fears are becoming a reality.”
Senate Bill 471, called the “Medical Freedom Act,” clearly states an individual in the commonwealth may not be discriminated against, denied services, or denied medical care for refusal to accept a COVID-19 vaccination.
The bill also states that all employers in the Commonwealth would be prohibited from taking any adverse employment action against an individual who declines a COVID-19 vaccination, to include termination, suspension, involuntary reassignment, unpaid leave, or demotion.
Businesses likewise would be prohibited from discriminating against unvaccinated individuals. Such discrimination would include denying entrance, service, or the ability to purchase goods or receive medical care because of a refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
On the same day as the committee vote, the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing focused on the impact of COVID-19 vaccine mandates on workers, employers, and access to health care. During the hearing, senators heard from workers who had been terminated from jobs or had their salary and benefits denied, as well as employers struggling to fill jobs, many of them in critical health care fields.
“A mass firing of unvaccinated workers will stunt our economy and compound the issue of the labor shortage problem in Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Mastriano. “Thousands of frontline medical workers will be out of a job. In 2020, we called them healthcare heroes. Now, they are viewed by some as expendable for choosing to exercise their medical freedom.”
“The Pennsylvania legislature must take action to affirm that individuals have the basic human right to decide what goes into their bodies,” Sen. Mastriano said. “All COVID- vaccination decisions should be made by the individual, including the right to informed consent or informed refusal.”
“Pennsylvanians are perfectly capable of weighing risk factors and making their own health and safety decisions,” said Sen. Mastriano. “SB 471 makes it clear that they will not be punished for the freedom to make that decision.”
Senate Bill 471 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
CONTACT: Josh Herman