by Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
February 1, 2022

Legislation that would prohibit Iowa schools and colleges from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 cleared its first hurdle Tuesday in the Iowa House of Representatives.

An education subcommittee advanced House File 2040 after brief consideration. The bill moves next to the House Education Committee.

“At the end of the day, this is about a parent’s choice of what they give their children,” said Henry Stone, R-Forest City, a subcommittee member. “No child should be subject to getting an education based on this immunization itself.”

State law requires students to be immunized against a variety of viruses and bacteria, including tetanus, measles and hepatitis B. The new bill would prohibit such requirements for the coronavirus at schools ranging from elementary to postsecondary and at child care centers until July 2029.

The Iowa Association of School Boards is neutral about the new legislation because: “I don’t know of a school board that wants to be in a position of making decisions about what vaccinations are required beyond the ones that already are,” said Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the association. “So, we’re very comfortable with having the state board of health be the experts on that.”

The handful of parents who spoke at the subcommittee meeting favored the legislation with one caveat — they thought the prohibition shouldn’t lift in seven years. They claimed the risks of vaccination outweigh the risks of children contracting COVID-19.

But a lobbyist for Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, which opposes the bill, said infected children have suffered terrible illness in recent months at the hospital.

“These are very sick kids,” said Chaney Yeast, the lobbyist. “Even if they have not died, they’re extremely ill.”

She said half of the children recently admitted to the hospital’s emergency department have tested positive for the virus, and that those admissions have multiplied in the past two months.

“Our pediatric intensive care unit has been at capacity for months now,” Yeast said.

Subcommittee member Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines, echoed those concerns about her own son and said children can be carriers of the virus regardless of whether it sickens them.

“If he goes into a school and somebody carries it and he has it, he’s dead,” Gaines said.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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