Arkansas may soon give citizens with natural immunity to Covid-19 a pass on employer vaccine mandates.
The Public Health Committee in both branches of that state’s legislature endorsed identical bills that treat Covid antibodies equally. Whether antibodies are from surviving the virus or from vaccination, Arkansas lawmakers would have employers accept either as proof of protection from Covid.
Employees who are fired from their jobs over the vaccine requirement would be eligible for unemployment insurance, if the bill passes in its present form.
State Senator Trent Garner posted to his Twitter account saying, “We know natural immunity is as strong a protection from Covid-19 as vaccination.”
“Natural immunity” means the immunity from Covid-19 that results from a previous infection of Coronavirus 2019, according to the language in Gartner’s bill that he embedded in his Twitter post.
If both bodies of the legislature pass the bill, some question remains whether Governor Asa Hutchinson will sign the bill. Governor Hutchinson has been an outspoken critic of the vaccine mandate announced earlier this year by President Joe Biden. The governor called the mandate “counterproductive” because he believes it will harden resistance to vaccination.
Legislators in the state have worked on measures to protect state residents from employer mandates. State agencies and state officials may not, by law, require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Other bills targeting vaccine mandates are in various stages in the legislature.
The impetus for such legislation has been national mandates proposed by President Biden. No federal rule has been issued yet. The president said earlier this month, though, he directed the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to mandate employers of at least 100 people require vaccines or weekly testing.
Within hours of Biden’s announcement of his impending vaccine mandate, 19 governors and 2 attorneys general spoke out against the federal requirement.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people who recovered from COVID-19 had immune protection up to eight months after infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises getting a vaccine even for people who have already had a case of Covid, because they say:
- Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after recovering from COVID-19
- Vaccination helps protect you even if you’ve already had COVID-19
President Trump recently advised people to get a Covid-19 vaccine, pointing out that his Operation Warp Speed was responsible for the fast availability of the vaccine. Trump promoted the vaccine but panned a vaccination mandate, saying that should be a personal choice.
“This is what we felt we could get through to give employees some protection,” Republican Senator Kim Hammer told the The Associated Press.