Bill banning COVID-19 ‘vaccine passports’ clears Georgia Senate

The Georgia Senate on Friday passed legislation on a party-line vote that would ban any state or local agency, government or school from requiring anyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Senate Bill 345, sponsored by Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, would not apply to health care providers. The ban on what is sometimes referred to as a “vaccine passport” would be lifted June 30, 2023. The measure passed 31-19, with Republicans supporting the bill.

“This bill simply says that the state of Georgia cannot mandate the COVID-19 vaccination. That’s it,” the Chickamauga Republican said.

The bill was overhauled after its original version would have prohibited the government, including public schools, from requiring any vaccines. Currently, schools require students to get vaccines to protect from diseases such as measles, tuberculosis and chickenpox. Mullis said that version of the bill was introduced in error.

“I believe we should be vaccinated. I’ve had COVID. I’ve had the two vaccinations and the booster, and I would recommend that everybody do this,” Mullis said. “However, I don’t think the state of Georgia — the government — should require a COVID-19 vaccination.”

State Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat and anesthesiologist, said while she appreciated the changes that were made to the bill, she worried that the legislation would make Georgians less confident in the effectiveness of vaccines.

“This bill undermines public trust in the COVID vaccine,” Au said. “This bill is not about our current environment or what we need to require or prohibit right now, today, this week. This bill is about limiting our ability to respond in the future to circumstances we may not yet be able to anticipate.”

The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.