“The fight for medical freedom continues into the new legislative session,” said prime sponsor Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, in a Jan. 4 press release.
Mastriano first introduced the measure, called the Medical Freedom Act, in December 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both versions of the legislation would shield residents from adverse employment actions or discrimination for refusing vaccination while working for state agencies or political entities.
A second proposal – in collaboration with Sens. Cris Dush, R-Bellefonte, and Tracy Pennycuick, R-Red Hill – to extend similar protections to the Pennsylvania National Guard is also in the works.
“Many Pennsylvanians have lost and continue to lose their livelihoods and access to basic services due to misguided COVID vaccine mandates,” Mastriano said. “The General Assembly must take action to affirm that individuals have the basic human right to decide what goes into their body.”
This week, the Department of Defense officially lifted the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the U.S. military, but Mastriano wants to make sure members of the state’s National Guard and Air National Guard are never subject to them again, either.
In the memo seeking co-sponsorship, he said “it is more than troubling that our Guard members, after years of service, now must fight for their basic human rights and medical freedom.”
According to Mastriano, the National Guard has missed its recruiting target by 10%, and 7,500 members have been separated from service since the mandates went into effect.
He also cited the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VEARS), that says there have been “over 2,000 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among individuals aged 30 years and younger shortly following a COVID-19 vaccination.”
“Pennsylvania cannot afford to be left vulnerable by losing valuable members of our Guard who support critical missions in the Commonwealth,” he said.
The bill faced staunch opposition from Democrats in the last legislative session, who argued vaccine mandates saved lives, especially among populations more vulnerable to the “highly communicable disease.”
The new proposal could also languish in the House, where Democrats are expected to capture a narrow majority after special elections scheduled next month.