Virginia’s top health official said on Friday that he will make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for everyone in the state once a vaccine becomes available.
“[The coronavirus] 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,” Virginia Commissioner of Health Dr. Norman Oliver said on Friday.
Virginia state law gives the Commissioner of Health the authority to mandate immunizations during a public health crisis, according to WRIC-TV. Only those with medical exemptions could refuse the mandate if the state decided to enact one.
Most Virginians would willingly comply, Oliver said, adding that he’s not sure what the punishment would be for those who don’t.
“I think the overwhelming majority of people would, in fact, respond well,” Oliver claimed.
ever, found that only 42% of Americans want to get vaccinated “if and when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.”
Many of those concerned with a potential vaccine said they are worried about how quickly the vaccine is being developed. Oliver, however, said he wouldn’t “launch a campaign around mass vaccination with anything that hasn’t proven to be safe.”
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, whose company secured approval for the mumps vaccine, disagreed and said that efficient and safe vaccinations take years of research and development.
“What worries me the most is that the public is so hungry, is so desperate to go back to normalcy, that they are pushing us to move things faster and faster,” Frazier told Harvard Business School’s Tsedal Neeley. “Ultimately, if you are going to use a vaccine in billions of people, you’d better know what that vaccine does.”
The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill that would allow residents “who object to such administration on religious grounds” to be granted an exemption from a potential vaccine mandate, but Oliver said he strongly opposes the bill, according to ABC-8 News.
The bill still needs to clear a committee in the House of Delegates before the full chamber can vote on it.