SC lawmakers debating bill to make sure all COVID-19 vaccinations are voluntary

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 7:35 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - There is no state mandate in South Carolina for anyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but some South Carolinians are worried their jobs will force them to get the shot.

More than half of all South Carolinians will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once the state transitions into phase 1b on March 8.

While some will be rushing to get the vaccine, others are praying the vaccine will not be forced on them.

Rebekah Watson says forcing someone to get the vaccine goes against someone’s personal freedom.

“Just like I would not say that anybody should come out and say that you could never get a vaccine,” Watson said. “I’d never say that. It is an individual choice, it is individual freedoms and liberties. I don’t think we can say something is 100 percent because we don’t know. Let’s be real, COVID hit the US over a year ago.”

Watson says employers should not be allowed to mandate that employees get vaccinated.

“It’s not a fear of the vaccine, it’s a fear of someone forcing that on anyone and it has nothing to do with anything other than...listen if somebody told me I have to eat a banana every day for a month for the rest of my life I would have a problem with that,” Watson says.

At least one state senator agrees with her.

Sen. Tom Corbin (R-Greenville) has introduced a bill that would make all COVID-19 vaccinations in the state voluntary.

“It’s a concern statewide and possibly nationwide about forced vaccinations regarding COVID-19,” Corbin said.

Corbin says he’s heard stories of people being forced to be vaccinated and wrote the bill to protect those people and others who feel the vaccine isn’t for them.

“I’ve heard of instances where companies have told employees they will be mandated to take it with the threat of losing their job if they didn’t and that’s what got the ball rolling,” Corbin said.

Watson is thankful a bill that would give some protection to people who are concerned they’ll be harassed at work or fired for not getting vaccinated is making progress.

“An employee should not feel if they decide that for them the vaccine is not the correct choice that they would be potentially at risk of losing their job and livelihood especially in these economic times,” Watson said.

Corbin says the bill doesn’t come from an antivaccine position but is to ensure the protection of personal freedoms and liberties.

“It is a medical procedure and I hope most people take the vaccine, I’m not an antivaccine person but I just believe we have freedoms and liberties in this country that should not be violated without repercussions,” Corbin said.

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce is against the bill as

SC Chamber Interim CEO Swati Patel says a majority of businesses in the state aren’t planning to mandate the vaccine unless the business is healthcare-related.

The Chamber says businesses working with vulnerable people should have the right to require a vaccine.

“The vast majority of businesses in our state are not considering mandating a COVID-19 vaccine for their employees. The few who are considering it, mainly within the healthcare sector, are doing so for the safety of their patients,” Patel says. “Industries serving our vulnerable populations have always had the right to require vaccines of its employees, even for diseases that are proven to be less lethal than COVID-19.

“In addition, rather than mandating vaccines, many businesses are considering offering incentives to employees who get vaccinated, such as paid time off and other perks,” Patel said. ”S.177, as drafted, would stand in the way of an employer offering such incentives to employees who may choose to get vaccinated, which may impede the ability to get back to more normal operations as quickly as possible.”

Corbin says he is working with the business community to get the bill done and hopes it passes out of committee in the upcoming weeks.

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