State Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) is working on a bill that would exempt some healthcare workers from COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

According to Cochran, the bill would allow medical practitioners to remain employed even if they don’t get vaccinated.

“The Biden OSHA mandate was struck down by the supreme court but the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) mandate was upheld, so those medical facilities that accept Medicare, Medicaid do have to require their workers to have the vaccine. That rule, however, does provide a religious and medical exemption,” Cochran said. “What this bill says is that in the State of Tennessee any religious exemption will be granted. It is a mandate and a requirement to grant that exemption and to grant the medical exemption so long as they provide proof from a medical professional that there are reasons for the exemption.”

He noted that if someone holds a deep conviction against the vaccine that it would be granted as a religious exemption.

“The motivation behind this is that it should be someone’s individual choice on whether or not they get vaccinated,” Cochran expressed. “We trusted the medical professionals for two years during the pandemic to take care of us. They were the heroes of this pandemic and if anyone has earned the individual liberty to make that decision it is the healthcare workers. We feel that they are very well informed and they can decide for themselves whether or not they want the vaccine and should not be forced to get the vaccine just to keep their jobs.”

He believes this bill is important for both individual liberty and for healthcare work staffing.

“Hospitals are already having staffing shortages, having a hard time finding employees. There is no reason for there to be another barrier for those employees to work because some people just have a moral objection to getting this vaccine,” Cochran said. “It has the potential to cause an even greater shortage in healthcare, so while this is to protect individual liberty it is also an issue of public health. We want to make sure our hospitals are fully staffed and that we aren’t losing people just because of the vaccine.”

Cochran expressed that he has high hopes for this bill as it continues to develop.

“Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) is the primary sponsor of this bill and I’m co-sponsoring it with him and I believe this has broad support in both the senate and the house,” Cochran said. “I’m very hopeful that we can get something enacted quickly so that we can start protecting our healthcare workers.”

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