TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Kansas Senate passed a controversial measure dealing with alternate coronavirus treatments and child vaccinations early Thursday morning.
After a long night of debate and final action votes, 21 voted in favor of the plan and 16 against.
Senate Substitute for HB 2280 would authorize the prescriptions of off-label drugs for coronavirus treatment, like ivermectin. It would also allow parents to skip out on child vaccination requirements for any vaccine.
Some Republican lawmakers are backing the plan, but some Democrats and health officials worry that passing the measure could have dire consequences.
Kansas Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, said that it could potentially lead to the spread of dangerous diseases.
“Mumps, measles, polio. We put people at risk as far as bringing those back.”
However, Republicans supporting the bill said that lack of vaccinations won’t impact the spread of disease.
“9.2% of kids are not vaccinated. Do we have a measles, mumps, outbreak, no?” said Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, who chairs the Committee on Public Health and Welfare. “There’s nothing in here that says it’s anti-vaccination. It does guarantee your religious right.”
The bill would require child care facilities and schools to grant religious exemptions from vaccination requirements without inquiring into the sincerity of their religious belief.
Holscher argued that people would also be able to base exemptions off of “philosophical” beliefs under the bill.
She also pointed to stacks of testimony she received in opposition to the plan. Some opponents argue that they didn’t get a chance to testify during hearings as senators rushed to get it out of committee.
“That was just to the initial bill. Before the part about vaccines were added in, once that part got added in, I could probably bring you in five more stacks like this,” Holscher said.
An earlier version of the bill was stalled after being tied to the redistricting controversy last month. That received pushback early on from pharmacists, who would’ve been required to fill the prescriptions.
However, the new version of the bill changes that requirement. According to Hilderbrand, the new bill would allow pharmacists to exercise their judgment.
“It also clearly defines that a pharmacist does not have to fill a prescription for ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine or anything else for COVID-19 if the dosage is too high or there’s a safety issue, so it gives them that leeway,” he said.
The bill is one of several measures Republican lawmakers have backed, as part of a push for people to exercise health “freedom.” Those conversations are now extending past a special session last year to prevent government overreach.
One of the latest measures to pass the floor Wednesday included a bill restricting the powers of the state’s health secretary and the local health officers.
Senator Holscher emphasized that legislation like this can have harmful effects.
“I think people look at Kansas differently as far as taking a giant step backward from proven science and proven methods of disease control.”