OPINION

Legislative Update with Julie Slama

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

Vaccine Mandates and Individual Liberties

In the past 17 months, we have faced many challenges to our freedoms as Americans. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the entire United States went on lockdown as governments haphazardly determined which businesses were “essential” and could remain open. Nebraska ended all statewide restrictions early into the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, there are new trends across the United States that are concerning, and many people are reaching out to the Legislature asking what can be done to keep their freedoms protected.

Vaccine mandates have arrived and spread like wildfire across our country. Many Nebraska businesses and private universities are requiring employees and students to get vaccinated. Healthcare entities, such as CHI Health, are requiring proof of vaccination to continue working at their facilities. During a public health crisis and pre-existing staffing shortage, medical personnel are being forced from their professions and protesting to take a stand for their individual liberties. 

The Department of Defense issued a vaccine mandate impacting military personnel in all branches and President Biden mandated vaccines for nursing home staff, putting Medicaid and Medicare funding at risk for those who do not comply. Biden’s nursing home mandate is especially concerning, as it could lead to more entities receiving federal funds being forced to require vaccines.

There are many issues with vaccine passports. It takes away the individual’s right to make their own healthcare choices. Some people might have valid concerns about the vaccine. Others may have been told by a doctor that it would not be the best option for them. Either way, demanding documentation of this sort sounds like something coming out of a George Orwell novel, not from a nation that is known for protecting our freedoms. President Trump was one of the first Americans to choose to be vaccinated in January, and I chose to be vaccinated in April. I chose to get the vaccine after studying the science, balancing both the risks and benefits.  If the President of the United States and other government officials have the freedom to make their health care decisions, it’s unconscionable for those same government officials to take that freedom away from our citizens.

Vaccine passports are not the only COVID-related facing our state and country. Just a couple of weeks ago, on July 27th, the CDC announced a new recommendation that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with “high COVID transmission levels.” In this announcement, they also recommended that students of all ages require masks when they return to the classroom this fall.

I remain opposed to vaccine and mask mandates. Masks and vaccines should always be a personal choice, not something that the government can require. The Legislature is looking to address this government overreach next session. First, we will work on passing Senator Ben Hansen’s LB 643, which would protect the right to accept or decline a vaccination under a mandatory directive. We will also be looking into other ways the law can reign in mask and vaccine mandates in other areas.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Nebraska State Senator Julie Slama