SC bill would keep vaccine from becoming a mandate

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is still in the first phase of supplying COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers. However, some state lawmakers said they are hearing from people who are concerned that the vaccine could become mandatory for the public.

They fear that workplaces may force employees to be vaccinated before they can work; while churches, medical centers or gathering places could deny entry to people who refuse the vaccine.

[County-by-county guide: Here’s when, where you can get the COVID-19 vaccine]

Republican state lawmaker Sandy McGarry, of Lancaster, co-sponsored a bill to prevent that from happening.

It would ensure that a COVID-19 vaccine does not become mandatory, and would also ban discrimination against anyone who refuses it.

“People in our district, in my district, are saying, ‘Listen, if I don’t want the flu shot, or if I don’t want to get the COVID-19 shot, I don’t want it,’” McGarry said. “There are fears about that.”

McGarry and her husband got COVID-19 last year.

Her husband’s case put him in the hospital for several days.

McGarry said there are still concerns about the effects of the vaccine, even if many in the medical community says it’s safe.

“This vaccine has not been time-tested. We don’t know what the outcome’s going to be in the long run for this,” she said.

South Carolina House Bill 3511 was filed on Dec. 16 and was referred to a committee.

The bill said that, in part, people who refuse the vaccine “...may not be denied access, service, entrance, use, occupancy, seating reservations, attendance, admission, shopping, spectating, viewing, gathering, mourning, worshipping.”

It also said employers can’t take action such as, “Termination, suspension, or involuntary reassignment,” of an employee who doesn’t get the vaccine.

Channel 9 found widespread support for the bill, including people who feel the vaccine was safe, and said they would take it.

Deborah Thompson said people must have a choice about their own health.

“I would like for everybody to get the vaccine because I think it will help to curb COVID and will be effective, but everybody always has a choice,” she said.


Resident Estee Scott said: “It’s our body, so we should have the decision to say if we want to put something into it or not.”

National polls show a strong upswing in the percentage of people who would take the vaccine, which is 70% in some polls.

South Carolina lawmakers go into session on Jan. 12. It’s not known yet when the bill could be heard. However, McGarry hopes it will get attention quickly as the vaccine becomes more available to the public in the upcoming months.