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Florida legislators passes bill making it illegal to require proof of COVID vaccinations

The legislation will now head to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk for his signature.

TAMPA, Fla. — As the pandemic persists, it remains a question and debate as to whether so-called vaccine passports will be needed to travel, enter a business, or enroll in school.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis took a strong stance on the issue when he signed an executive order to ban anything that forces people to prove they've been immunized.

Florida lawmakers may have made his order permanent with SB 2006, which just passed the Florida House Thursday. The legislation would not allow businesses, schools or government entities to require proof of the COVID-19 vaccinations.

The bill now requires the governor's signature before becoming law.

In March, DeSantis said, "It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof or vaccine to simply be able to participate in normal society."

However, Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a distinguished health professor at the University of South Florida, says it's important to remember that vaccine requirements and proof of immunization have been around for nearly a century.

"Probably close to 80 years now," said Unnasch, who is also the co-director of the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at USF.

Right now, in the state of Florida, a long list of shots are required for a child to attend school. They include DTaP, IPV, MMR, Hep B, Tdap, and Varicella. You can read the whole list of requirements here.

Parents must provide paperwork from a doctor as proof of these immunizations for their child to attend school. In Florida, exemptions are granted only for medical and religious reasons.

"These are diseases that historically have killed many many people, many children over the years," said Unnasch.

REQUIRED VACCINES VS. OPTIONAL VACCINES

Dr. Unnasch says mandating a particular vaccine depends on the severity of a disease and whether our public health system can hold up. The vaccines required by the state of Florida prevent diseases that can cause a health crisis even if a small percentage of people aren't vaccinated.

"In order to maintain herd immunity and make sure these are not an ongoing health problem, we need to make sure the majority of people are immune to these infections," he said.

Two other reasons for required immunizations are to protect those who can't get vaccinated such as people with auto-immune disorders and also to protect the general population since no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

A flu vaccine is not required to attend school, and Unnasch says that's because society can tolerate the yearly flu outbreak.

"People can have a choice if they want to get the vaccine, they can get vaccinated and prevent themselves from infection or they can take the chance and get pretty darn sick for a week," he explained.

Universities also have stringent vaccination requirements.

On the Florida Gulf Coast University website, it says, "The State University System of Florida/FGCU requires all students born AFTER  12/31/1956 to upload documented vaccine proof or lab immunity to MMRs, (Measles (Rubeola) Mumps and German Measles (Rubella) to their SHS Portal."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes recommendations for college students. The CDC also has vaccine information for adults and guidelines for certain careers such as healthcare workers.

SHOULD A COVID-19 VACCINE BE MANDATED?

Dr. Unnasch says it's too early to tell. His final word:

"We’re going to have to wait and see if we can develop herd immunity through voluntary vaccinations or if COVID remains to be a long-standing, chronic, public health problem that’s filling our hospitals and taking a lot of health care resources."

Other medical and legal experts have weighed in in our previous reporting. Check it out:

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