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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is enacting a new law that says state and local government agencies cannot withhold services or refuse jobs to people who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The ban applies to state agencies, city and county governments and schools, community colleges and universities. COVID-19 vaccination mandates have not been widespread in Mississippi, but some lawmakers said they were acting against the possibility of government overreach.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday that he had signed House Bill 1509, and it became law immediately.
"Government shouldn't be in the business of forcing Americans to choose between the COVID-19 vaccine & putting food on their tables, sending their kids to school, or visiting a small business," Reeves said on Twitter.
Some other Republican-led states have enacted laws or are considering legislation that would ban COVID-19 vaccination mandates. Those efforts have largely been motivated by opposition to the Biden administration's earlier attempts to require vaccinations or testing by some employers, health care providers and federal contractors.
The Mississippi law specifies COVID-19 vaccinations cannot be required for children to attend school or day care. It does not change Mississippi's other childhood vaccination requirements, which are some of most stringent in the nation.
The law also specifies anyone in Mississippi can cite "a sincerely held religious objection" to avoid a public or private employer's COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Public health officials say COVID-19 vaccinations do not always prevent illness, but are effective at decreasing severe cases leading to hospitalization or death.
More than 12,400 Mississippi residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began two years ago, according to the state Health Department.
Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States. About 52% of eligible residents in the state are fully vaccinated, according to a Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker. The national rate is about 66%.
Lead Image: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
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