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Indiana House passes effective ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates

The Indiana House voted to effectively block private companies from enforcing COVID-19 mandates. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

The Indiana House voted Tuesday to effectively block private companies from enforcing COVID-19 mandates.

The measure, HB 1001, says businesses have to grant exemptions from getting the vaccine to employees who request them on a medical or religious basis or who have contracted the virus within six months.

The bill’s author, Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne), said the choice to get a COVID-19 vaccine should be up to an individual.

"I get calls and they’re crying, 'I don’t know what the future holds. Help me. Because I really want to not get this vaccination. My employer’s telling me I have to. I need some protections,'" Lehman said.

READ MORE: Faith, medicine and COVID-19: Why do religious vaccine exemptions exist?

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

But Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) said the bill is justifying the anger of a few at the expense of many.

“This attack is led by those who proclaim their love and devotion to the private sector … leave the businesses alone. If you can’t help them, leave them alone,” DeLaney said.

The measure also says if someone is fired even after requesting a COVID-19 vaccine exemption, they can receive unemployment benefits.

And it includes provisions, requested by Gov. Eric Holcomb, that will allow him to end the state's public health emergency without losing access to millions in federal funding tied to the pandemic. 

During the floor debate on the bill, some Republican lawmakers baselessly cast doubt on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and spread conspiracy theories.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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