Anti-vaccine groups block bill making government, businesses pay vaccine mandate

SAN FRANCISCO — A bill to impose a vaccination mandate on companies and the government seeking federal contracts has been stalled by concerns from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and anti-vaccine groups.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and others have been trying for years to get such a mandate enacted, but efforts stalled after the National Vaccine Information Center, an anti-vaccine organization that has claimed the vaccine is dangerous, mounted a lobbying and campaign to block it.

The National Vaccine Information Center was a co-sponsor of a House bill that would establish a vaccine mandate, but the non-profit public affairs committee tried to undercut support for the legislation in 2012 by running radio and television ads against the bill and trying to persuade Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) to kill it.

A then-Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court criticized the groups’ tactics in an opinion for the court stating that citizens’ right to petition “applies to all issues, not just the issues the advocates think they ought to like.”

Shortly after the commercial blitz, federal contract-lenders called a meeting where the chamber and anti-vaccine groups spoke out against a vaccine mandate.

“Despite being blocked in the House, we’re still seeing progress being made in the Senate, but opponents have succeeded in their effort to invalidate the mandates in three states,” said Ennie Murphy, executive director of Peace Over Fear. “With the help of our supporters we will see this bill become law, but we will keep fighting until all Americans are protected.”

The coalition is also putting together support for a bill on its website: The Safe and Viable Vaccine Requirement Act of 2020.

Quinn Keaney is Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones.

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