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Idaho lawmaker wants to criminalize the most-used COVID-19 vaccines

Bill would make it a misdemeanor to give mRNA shots

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Wendy Dewey, a public health nurse with the Salt Lake County Health Department, prepares a syringe during a free COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic in West Valley City.

Wendy Dewey, a public health nurse with the Salt Lake County Health Department, prepares a syringe during a free COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic at the Tongan Methodist Church in West Valley City on Oct. 15, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Idaho lawmakers are looking at criminalizing the use of mRNA vaccines, the technology in most COVID-19 shots.

A bill introduced last week in the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to provide or administer vaccines using messenger RNA “for use in an individual or any other mammal in this state.”

“We have issues (the vaccine) was fast tracked,” the Senate sponsor of Idaho’s HB154, Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, told the committee on Feb. 15, claiming there is no liability, informed consent or data on mRNA vaccines, according to KTVB news,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says researchers “have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades,” including for the flu, Zika virus and rabies, as well as in cancer research.

There is no mention of COVID-19 in the bill, but Nichols later clarified she was referring to the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that utilize the technology described by the CDC as teaching cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.

The benefit of mRNA technology over traditional vaccines that use weakened or inactivated viruses, “is that people get this protection from a vaccine, without ever having to risk the potentially serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19,” the CDC says.

The federal agency also advises that “Any side effects from getting the vaccine are normal signs the body is building protection.”

The assertion by Nichols, a BYU-Idaho graduate, that the vaccines were fast-tracked was questioned by Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, during the bill’s initial presentation. The bill has since been referred back to the committee for a hearing.

Nichols said she is finding it “may not have been done like we thought it should’ve been done,” KTVB news reported. She added, “There are other shots we could utilize that don’t have mRNA in it.”

Two U.S.-approved COVID-19 vaccines don’t use mRNA technology, from Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limited the authorized use of the Johnson & Johnson shots, citing concerns over rare blood clots.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines make up the vast majority of shots given in the United States, more than 650 million of the 670 million doses administered nationwide through mid-February, according to Our World in Data.

An attempt to ban COVID-19 and flu vaccines in Elko County, Nevada, last month failed after the county’s Board of Health voted unanimously not to take action on a request for a moratorium on the shots.

In Florida, the Lee County GOP backed what’s being called the “Ban the Jab” resolution, CBS Miami reported Thursday. A member of the Florida county’s Republican Party, Joe Sansone, told the TV station COVID-19 vaccines are “biological weapons.”