Louisiana lawmakers back bill striking at “vaccine passport”

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What is a vaccine passport, and will I need one? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers Monday started advancing a proposal taking aim at the concept of mandatory coronavirus vaccines or a “vaccine passport” proving immunization, though state officials have indicated no plans to try to enact such requirements.

Without objection, the House transportation committee backed a proposal to ban the state Office of Motor Vehicles from requiring someone to be vaccinated to get a driver’s license or to put immunization information on that license.

The proposal heads to the full House for debate.

The bill by Republican Rep. Kathy Edmonston, of Gonzales, also would apply to state-issued identification cards overseen by the agency. It would cover all vaccinations, not just the coronavirus vaccine.

“Vaccination records are unrelated to driving privileges,” Edmonston said. “This bill keeps the driver’s license for driving purposes only.”

The proposal appears to be moot. Staci Hoyt, deputy commissioner with the Office of Motor Vehicles, said the agency can’t add anything to the license or a state-issued ID card or add requirements for getting one without lawmakers authorizing it.

Several people who objected to the concept of mandatory vaccines or vaccine requirements for activities, as have been discussed in other states and countries, said they wanted to ensure such requirements don’t happen in Louisiana. They called it a violation of privacy rights.

Some people who testified for the legislation downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus and questioned the safety of the vaccine, despite medical studies to the contrary.

“It’s time to stop scaring people and having them believe that it’s going to be the end of the world,” said Claston Bernard, a Republican who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress earlier this year.

More than 9,400 deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed in Louisiana, according to the state health department.

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The bill is filed as House Bill 349.

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