Arizona GOP Lawmakers Promise COVID Vaccine Won’t Be Mandatory to Attend School

Arizona GOP Lawmakers Promise COVID Vaccine Won’t Be Mandatory to Attend School

By Corinne Murdock |

Despite the CDC adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of recommended vaccines for public school attendance, Arizona’s Republican lawmakers said that the state won’t be mandating it. 

That’s because the state enacted several bills earlier this year precluding such mandates: HB2498, which prohibits any government entities in the state from mandating the COVID vaccine (exempting health care institutions), and HB2086, which further prohibits mandates for the COVID vaccine as well as the human papillomavirus in order to attend school. 

The CDC announced last Thursday that it would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of childhood and adult immunization schedules next year. 

The State Senate Majority issued a statement on Monday asserting that HB2086 protected parental rights against an “out of touch” federal government and its agencies. Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) said that Republican leadership enabled these protections, implying that a state legislature flip would result in a nanny state.

“Injecting something into our bodies is a very personal choice and is one that families should have complete control over,” said Fann. “Senate Republicans believe parents ultimately have the right to make medical decisions for their child, and we will not take away that freedom.”

ADHS and Democratic legislators opposed both bills. During committee discussion of HB2086, State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) claimed that fears of COVID-19 vaccine injuries were political. Hernandez said that it would be right to reject a prohibition of a vaccine mandate. 

Parents have the ability to seek out medical, religious, and personal exemptions for mandatory vaccines. During committee discussion of HB2086, State Representative Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria) shared that constituents described the exemption process as “extremely difficult” and “time consuming.” Former ADHS director Will Humble rejected that characterization in response, but admitted that he made the exemption process more difficult than it had been in the past. 

Unlike the state legislature’s slim majority, Arizona’s agencies appear to be falling in line with federal agencies. Carla Berg, Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) deputy director, published a memo earlier this month encouraging parents to vaccinate children five and up. 

ADHS often aligns itself with CDC and FDA messaging on public health issues. Earlier this summer, ADHS memos about monkeypox echoed similar, controversial memos issued by the federal government, such as a general avoidance on the specifics of the disease’s spread and its predominance among sexually active gay men. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.