Wisconsin employers couldn't require employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and so-called vaccine passports would be prohibited under GOP-backed bills that received a public hearing at the state Capitol Wednesday.
Another proposal would prevent the University of Wisconsin System from requiring COVID-19 vaccines or testing.
The hearing before lawmakers on the Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics included vocal testimony from vaccine opponents in support of the five-bill package.
"Requiring a vaccine is not the same as requiring an employee to wear steel toe boots or a hair net. You can take those off when you leave," said Judith Jolly, a registered nurse from Pardeeville with the anti-vaccination group Vaccine Choice Wisconsin. "You can't take the vaccine out of your body when you leave work."
The proposals, which are opposed by the Wisconsin Medical Society, come after New York launched a voluntary digital passport proving vaccination status, while other states have enacted policies against such credentials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines saying Americans can safely go without a face mask in many situations if they’ve been fully vaccinated.
Sign up for daily news!
Stay informed with WPR's email newsletter.
State Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, said this could force workers unwilling to get the vaccine to lose their job or wear a mask from "now to eternity, essentially."
Many speakers, including former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, talked about the freedom to make their own health decisions even though public health officials say what individuals do during the pandemic affects community health.
COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration are allowed under what’s known as emergency use authorization. Moderna and Pfizer have applied for full FDA approval of their vaccines. Many employers, schools and government agencies have chosen not to require vaccination under the current emergency use authorization status.
In April, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a Republican bill that would have barred the government from requiring people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Two weeks after vetoing that bill, he told the Journal Times in Racine that it was unlikely that Wisconsin or any other state would require people get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Evers has also said "in some instances it is a reasonable request" for businesses, health care institutions and universities to require proof of vaccination for the COVID-19 virus.