Last week, Alaska lawmakers began prefiling bills for the 2022 session. Most of the health care bills deal with COVID-19, including several seeking to limit the state’s ability to enforce or mandate vaccinations.
These include HB 238, which would prohibit businesses, state agencies, municipalities, school districts and the University of Alaska from requiring vaccinations if someone objects on the basis of religious, medical, or philosophical grounds. This would essentially allow anyone who wants to opt out of COVID-19 vaccine mandates to do so.
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Dovetailing with that, HB 241 would hold employers liable for civil damages if they encourage an employee or an employee’s family member to get a COVID vaccine, and that employee suffers an adverse reaction.
SB 156 would further make so-called “vaccine passports” illegal, and ban the state from requiring immunity to travel to or within Alaska. It would also prohibit employers from refusing to hire someone for not being vaccinated against COVID. HB 262 would further ban the state from helping the federal government enforce any nationwide vaccination requirements, or travel restrictions based on vaccination status.
HB 236 would make public health officials personally liable for damages when issuing public health guidance, recommendations, or mandates to the state government or public, even federal mandates, without first reaching their own conclusions regarding the “prudence” of said guidance.
HB 237 would free pharmacists from sanctions or discipline for dispensing COVID medicine, as prescribed by a doctor. The bill states that the pharmacist is not required to evaluate whether dispensing the medication is in the patient’s best interest.
Finally, HB 252 would require emergency medical providers to allow patients to pick a support person to be present at their treatment. This person can be anybody the patient chooses. The bill would also extend this to patients in hospitals, nursing facilities, assisted living homes, and hospice care.
Alaska lawmakers will convene the 2022 session on Jan. 18.