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Washington lawmaker proposes legislation to prohibit COVID-19 vaccine 'discrimination'

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, is proposing legislation that would prohibit discrimination against people who choose not to get the coronavirus vaccine.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Washington state lawmaker is pushing for legislation to prevent what he calls discrimination against people who do not get the coronavirus vaccine.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, announced the proposal Thursday for the 2021 legislative session. The legislation would prohibit requiring a vaccination.

Under the proposal, public and private employers could not require workers to be vaccinated, schools could not require vaccination as a condition of attendance, and access to public places could not be denied because a person is not vaccinated. Vaccination could also not be required for traveling on planes, trains and buses, according to a press release from Ericksen.

In the release, Ericksen said the legislation is not pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine, but rather "pro-individual rights."

"Nowhere is the coercive power of government more intrusive than on this issue," Ericksen said in a prepared statement. "We don’t require flu shots and we shouldn’t require COVID shots. Often people forget that our constitution puts the rights of the individual first. We shouldn’t trample on it in a rush to vaccinate."

The bill is in the drafting stages, according to Ericksen's statement, and will be introduced before the legislative session begins on Jan. 11. The 105-day legislative session will be held mostly remotely, with committee hearings held completely online and with limited in-person floor votes by lawmakers.

Washington state received its first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine this week. Hundreds of health workers have already received the vaccine, and thousands are expected to get it over the next few days. 

It's unclear when the vaccine will be available for all Washingtonians, but state health officials have said it likely will not be for several months