COVID conversations continue at Legislature
ND House weeds out vaccine bills
A proposal to cover medical costs for individuals suffering physical injury from COVID-19 vaccinations failed to get legislative support in the North Dakota House this week.
House members gave a mixed response to a handful of bills related to COVID-19 and vaccinations on Tuesday.
Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot, introduced House Bill 1406, which would have required the state Department of Health and Human Services to cover the costs of treatment and diagnostics for injuries related to any messenger ribonucleic acid vaccine or any COVID-19 vaccine that it promotes or markets. The bill carried a fiscal note of more than $14 million in the coming biennium.
Reporting on the bill for the Human Services Committee, Rep. Matt Ruby, R-Minot, explained the federal government removed liability from vaccine manufacturing companies for properly made vaccines in 1986 and created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 1988.
“The program had about 500 cases prior to COVID. Since COVID, they have about 7,500 as of December,” he said. Due to the small staff and large numbers of claims, many applicants still are waiting to have their claims considered, he said. As of the end of last year, there were 12 claims approved and 68 denied.
“Most of the committee felt we didn’t need a separate program in the state for this,” he said. “It’s a little clunky and needs some work, but there is a program on the federal side.”
The bill also would have prohibited any government from requiring a vaccine or disclosing vaccination status unless the manufacturer has liability for any death or serious injury. Ruby noted state law already provides some protections, although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can require vaccines in facilities it funds.
Hoverson responded that navigating the federal compensation program is a hardship for people. He cited 20,000 deaths reported since the COVID vaccine and talked about a close relationship between the drug companies and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has eliminated checks on companies to ensure their products are safe.
The House voted 32-59 to kill HB 1406.
The House voted 86-5 to pass House Bill 1207, which provides for the Department of Health and Human Services to publish data regarding vaccine adverse events on its website.
Sponsor Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Willow City, said there is a need for accurate data that currently is difficult to obtain.
The House voted 78-13 to pass House Bill 1200, sponsored by Hoverson, to prohibit the state Board of Higher Education, public and private schools and child-care facilities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or vaccinations that are under emergency authorizations. With some exceptions, governments also could not require COVID-19 vaccination documentation before delivering services, and businesses would not be able to require documentation before offering employment or services.
The House voted 87-4 to pass Hoverson’s bill to prohibit a hospital from denying treatment based on COVID-19 vaccination status. House Bill 1502 is in response to situations in other states in which treatment, such as organ transplants, have been denied.
The House voted 31-60 to kill House Bill 1505, introduced by Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot. The bill would have made it a misdemeanor to require vaccination before an individual can exercise any right, perform any duty or enjoy any privilege.
Reporting for the Human Services Committee, Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, said there is concern about allowing unvaccinated individuals in highly contagious environments, such as a measles outbreak in a school.
“The public safety aspect of this law is very dangerous ground,” Porter said. He added the law could put the state at odds with the federal government, which requires vaccinations for employees in certain healthcare environments. Additionally, state law that allows people to opt out of mandatory vaccines “really took care of the problem years ago, so that this bill is not needed,” he said.