Bill would allow people to opt-out of pandemic vaccine

Published 5:41 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021


Sun Columnist

By the time this is being read, Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) may have already been passed by both the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives. The bill passed out of committee and the Senate in just two days.

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SB 8 would allow adults, emancipated minors and parents making decisions for their children to opt out of mandatory vaccines in an epidemic, for religious grounds, medical reasons or a “conscientiously held belief.”

More than 30 organizations submitted a letter opposing the bill due to its potential negative health impacts, especially on school-age children and people who are immuno-compromised. Among those organizations opposing the bill were the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Coalition for Healthy Children and the American Association of Pediatrics.

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester), a physician and one who is certainly aware of the history of vaccines in this country and how they have curtailed some of the most pernicious diseases of mankind, supported this bill because of his stated position that it is proper to isolate those with communicable diseases but not proper to force them to take measures to actually prevent the disease and its transmission to others.

Of course the two positions are arguable … or at least debatable. Suppose, for instance, that the pandemic is not gotten under control for many, many months because the country has not reached a sufficient level of immunizations to achieve ‘herd immunity’? Who could say whether it was better to quarantine those who refuse to get immunized for extended periods than to require them to get vaccinated?  Is this the beginning of new leper colonies?

At least five other bills related to immunizations have been filed, oddly all by Republicans.

These bills, variously, would bar the government from requiring any person to get a vaccine, prohibit employers from requiring employees to get a vaccine, ban discrimination against an employee who declines to get a vaccination and prohibit public and private postsecondary schools and colleges from requiring students to be vaccinated except for students in health care programs.

Senate Bill 117 would allow students at independent institutions and postsecondary education institutions and those who work in health facilities, to be exempt from vaccine requirements for medical reasons, religious beliefs or other “conscientiously held belief.”

Whoa! How does one legislate a ‘conscientiously held belief’?

It seems that this plethora of bills against vaccinations does little more than reflect little less than the anti-vaxxer, anti-science philosophy that so insidiously permeates society today. Maybe it’s just the “I’ll-do-what-I-please-and-the–hell-with–everyone-else” attitude that manifests itself with the non-mask-wearing individuals who so vociferously demand their “personal freedom.”

So here’s a scenario.

“Sorry, the Kentucky legislature passed Senate Bill 117 and I have a ‘conscientiously held belief’ that vaccines are nothing more than a government-sponsored scheme to control what I do and there really is nothing called a pandemic and vaccines haven’t been proven effective, so I’m not going to get a COVID vaccine even if I die from it or unknowingly pass it along to someone else.”

Response: “OK, we’ll provide you free transportation to the anti-vaccine colony. We can’t say how long you may be there but there’s plenty of room as the population is dying off about as fast as newcomers arrive.”

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at