VA Gov. Northam Walks Back Health Commissioner’s Expressed Interest In Mandatory COVID Vaccine

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After a state health official expressed openness toward making the upcoming coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all resident adults, Governor Ralph Northam’s office is downplaying that possibility in favor of widespread voluntary compliance.

Last week, state Health Commissioner Norman Oliver told the press he was interested in mandating the vaccine if he is still health commissioner when one is available.

“It is killing people now, we don’t have a treatment for it and if we develop a vaccine that can prevent it from spreading in the community we will save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” Oliver said, according to WRIC.

On Monday, however, Northam’s office pushed back on the issue of mandating the vaccine.

“When Dr. Oliver spoke of his support of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine for adults, he was sharing his personal opinion as a physician,” Northam spokeswoman Maria Reppas said, according to Just The News. “Currently, the Northam administration has taken no official policy position on whether or not a COVID-19 vaccine for adults should be mandatory.”

“When a vaccine becomes available, we’re confident that Virginians will seek it out,” Spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky added, suggesting that widespread voluntary compliance will be necessary to avoid a mandate. “That’s why we don’t have plans for a mandate.”

While Northam expects sufficient voluntary compliance with a coronavirus vaccine, the shot may not come without serious ethical implications for many.

As we reported back in June, two frontrunners in the race to market a coronavirus vaccine are utilizing cell lines from aborted babies in the development of the shots:

Janssen Research & Development USA, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are working to develop vaccines using the controversial cell lines.

Both research groups are on a short-list for funding from the Trump administration to develop a vaccine by January 2021. CanSino Biologics, Inc., the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, and the University of Pittsburgh are also using aborted fetal cell lines in their vaccine development.

Earlier in the year, the Charlotte Lozier Institute identified 60 potential treatments for the novel coronavirus that do not use aborted fetal byproducts that are under investigation, but they are not receiving the same support as the upcoming vaccines.

Regardless of the stance of Northam’s office, it is alarming to know that Virginia law does allow Commissioner Oliver to mandate a vaccine for every resident in the state in the event of an epidemic should he choose to.

Under the law, only people with a medical exemption from a doctor could refuse the mandate.

The Virginia General Assembly is mulling over a bill during an ongoing special session, WRIC reports, that would allow for a religious exemption to such a mandate. The bill needs to clear a committee in the House of Delegates before the full chamber can vote on it.

Oliver says he strongly opposes that bill, but conceded that he does not know what the punishment would be for non-compliance would be.

“We would not launch a campaign around mass vaccination with anything that hasn’t proven to be safe,” Oliver added.

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