Tennessee Governor Lee Supports Bill to Ban COVID-19 ‘Vaccination Passport’ Requirements
NASHVILLE – Calling COVID-19 vaccinations a “voluntary and personal choice,” Republican Gov. of Tennessee Bill Lee on Tuesday announced his opposition to both government mandates that citizens be vaccinated and the issuance of ” passports ”to prove that they have been vaccinated against the potentially fatal virus. infectious disease.
Hours later, an amended bill prohibiting Tennessee government and state agencies as well as local governments from requiring such documents to obtain services was passed by its first House panel – thanks to an amendment that the measure’s sponsor said was provided by Lee’s administration.
However, the measure does not include businesses and private entities.
Lee tweeted earlier Tuesday that he “supports legislation banning any government-mandated vaccine passports in order to protect the privacy of Tennesseans’ health information and ensure that vaccine remains a voluntary and personal decision.”
Speaking to reporters later, the governor said after a speech at the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry that he thought “passports for vaccines were a bad idea.”
“I don’t think the government should impose vaccine requirements or mandates in any way. And I’m working with the legislature to support legislation that supports it,” Lee said.
Lee joins a number of Republican governors who have expressed their opposition to COVID-19 passports, but he is resisting imposing any COVID-19 passport ban on businesses. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued such an order.
“I certainly hope businesses will follow this same pattern,” said Lee, who did not raise the passport issue to the gathered business leaders. “I don’t think it’s in our state’s best interests for companies to impose restrictions and mandates on vaccines. But I don’t think the government should intrude on private business practices either. .
“So,” said Lee, “we’re encouraging businesses in this way, but we’re not going to restrict them.”
On the issue of higher education institutions requiring students, faculty and staff to carry immunization documents, Lee said, “I think private institutions have decisions that they make for themselves. I think government agencies run by government should not have vaccine requirements. “
When asked if he opposes such a requirement at the University of Tennessee, where administrators last November granted UT President Randy Boyd the power to require COVID-19 vaccines for students of the UT system pending approval, Lee replied, “That’s right.”
UT spokeswoman Melissa Tindell said in a subsequent statement that after the board action in November, the system announced that it “would not make the COVID vaccine mandatory for various reasons. .
“In the interest of public health, we strongly encourage all faculty, students and staff to receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible. The UT system will continue to monitor COVID numbers to determine if further action is needed, ”Tindell added.
Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @ AndySher1.