With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine comes concerns that the state government could mandate it. However, state Sen. Ben Hansen, who represents District 16, wants to make sure Nebraskans have a choice.
Last month, Hansen introduced Legislative Bill 643, which would maintain “the individual liberty, parental rights, and free market principles of the citizens and businesses of Nebraska during a state of emergency declared by the governor, or anytime thereafter, it is the right of each citizen, the right of parents with respect to their dependents, and the right of each business with respect to its employees, to accept or decline a mandatory vaccination directive by the Nebraska state government.”
A public hearing on the bill was held Thursday.
Hansen told the Enterprise that he didn't expect the state to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, but he wanted to take a proactive approach.
The bill isn't against vaccines, Hansen said.
“This is more of a personal liberty issue, so in case something does roll out say two years down the road and we have a different governor or four years and we have something else happen,” he said. “We're just protecting people's individual rights, their parental rights and businesses from being forced to vaccinate themselves or their employees by the government.”
The COVID-19 vaccine is important and there has been plenty of interest from Washington County residents who want to receive it. And they should. A vaccine is necessary to stop the pandemic.
However, mandating that people get it isn't the answer.
Late last year, New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill that the state could mandate vaccination if the level of voluntary vaccination was not high enough to result in herd immunity.
“It’s a protective health measure,” Rosenthal told a New York television news station. “It’s to ensure that our residents are safe and protected against further spread.” Rosenthal explained that, “the concept of herd immunity is very important, and not everyone will have to get the vaccination if a certain threshold of the population has gotten it.”
But Rosenthal is wrong. Hansen has the right idea. Throughout much of the pandemic, it has been eye opening to see how much the government can mandate — from shutting down restaurants to limiting gatherings to sheltering in place orders.
LB 643 is the right step to ensure Nebraskans still have a choice before rolling up their sleeve to get a vaccine.