Under SB 345, state and local government agencies, including school districts, are banned from issuing any form of vaccine passport, nor can they create any rules or regulations to force any individuals or private businesses to do so.
“No agency shall require proof of any vaccination of any person as a condition of providing any service or access to any facility, issuing any license, permit, or other type of authorization, or performing any duty of such agency,” the latest version of the two-page bill reads.
The bill was sponsored by five Republicans when it was first filed for the 2022 legislative session. It now has 17 sponsors in the state Senate, including Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor in this year’s gubernatorial race.
If the bill passes the Republican-majority state legislature and is signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, it would make Georgia the first state to eliminate vaccination requirements for entering schools. All 50 states currently maintain at least some school entry requirements for vaccinations, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.
Georgia Department of Public Health currently requires all children entering a school or childcare facility operating in the state to be vaccinated against 13 diseases, including measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
While Kemp has yet to signal whether he will sign SB 345, the measure appears to be in line with his resistance against the idea of public health-related government mandates. In May 2021, Kemp issued an executive order which prohibits state agencies, state service providers, and state properties from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
“While I continue to urge all Georgians to get vaccinated so we continue our momentum in putting the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview, vaccination is a personal decision between each citizen and a medical professional—not state government,” Kemp said.
In a separate executive order issued in May, Kemp declared that school districts in the Peach State could no longer use his COVID-19 emergency declaration as a source of authority to require students or staff to wear a mask at school. But the order was not worded strongly enough to straight out ban school mask mandates.
More recently, Kemp filed a lawsuit to challenge the Biden administration’s Head Start vaccine and mask mandate, which requires all Head Start staff and certain contractors and volunteers be fully vaccinated by Jan. 31, 2022, and that masks be worn by all children participating in the program.
“This is just the latest and most egregious in a growing list of overreaches by this President,” Kemp said in December. “It is all the more troubling and inexcusable, given this mandate directly impacts and impairs our children.”