Tennesseans have proven we are resilient and determined moving through the COVID pandemic response. Getting to this point in our state -- one of only a handful that has economic growth, open schools and an ability to see a light at the end of this proverbial tunnel -- has taken unbelievable effort.
Yet, one revelation of many over the last year has been the need to reject those who spin up fears that we cannot have our liberty, our public health and the ability to take care of our families in a manner that permits economic growth. Granted, to have the construct of governance that successfully protects all three is difficult and requires tremendous collaboration. But the efforts to create fear through disinformation are divisive -- part of the problem not the solution.
Look no further than a number of bills filed in the state legislature with the intention of protecting citizens from forced vaccines and government overreach to see how this topic has become not just confusing, but divisive, and the disinformation being spread by some online media upstarts is unfortunate.
In Tennessee, there are religious exemptions for vaccines and medical interventions. However, in a recent bill there is language that must be addressed related to epidemic and pandemic designations that infringe upon these important liberties. A few pieces of legislation, however, have been very broadly written and would even prevent a church daycare from requiring an employee with direct childcare responsibilities from examination and screening if a malady like tuberculosis were suspected. A restaurant owner could not ensure that workers with direct food preparation responsibilities are treated for Hepatitis A and other highly contagious illnesses. There is substantial legislative support for clarifying the language in those bills.
As the cosponsor of HB13, I have joined colleagues to recognize that government should not be able to use its power to force the COVID vaccine on its citizens. While documentation shows that the Pfizer vaccine had been studied in over 40,000 patients (not just laboratory animals) for safety and efficacy, these vaccines are not yet FDA-approved. Though I plan to take the vaccine after research and speaking with healthcare professionals, taking this vaccine should be a personal choice not a mandate. Additionally, disinformation has also been circulated by groups claiming that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been designed, developed or produced using fetal cells – making them morally objectionable. That is not the case.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute – a prolife group devoted to the health and well-being of families - has a comprehensive document that demonstrates that the two vaccines available should not be considered morally controversial. Another extensive review has been conducted by Randy Alcorn, a prolific Christian author and minister, and he arrives at the same conclusion -- warning against sweeping statements of morality as well as propaganda based in fear and personal piety.\
Members of the Tennessee General Assembly are currently working to address our existing laws. In practice, however, there are no mandates for vaccines that do not recognize and honor religious and unique health exemptions. It is easy in difficult times for unscrupulous people to propagate false information. Governing to ensure the liberty and the health and the prosperity of all citizens is a difficult task, but one well worth the effort that is underway.
Rep. Robin Smith