Fla. Senator Wants to Stop ‘Compulsory Vaccination,’ Limit Ability to Declare Public Health Emergency

Florida state senator Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, has introduced a new bill that would prevent the state government from imposing compulsory vaccinations during public health emergencies. The bill makes several changes to Florida law regarding public health advisories and emergency declarations, adding new protections against government overreach.

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Under the text of the original law, the declaration of a public health emergency in Florida grants a wide range of powers to the state surgeon general—or “state health officer—”that are necessary to protect the public health.” Those powers include “ordering an individual to be examined, tested, treated, isolated, or quarantined for communicable diseases.”

Yarborough’s amendment to the bill would redefine “treatment” to exclude compulsory vaccination, protecting residents’ right to refuse mandatory vaccinations on subjective grounds. According to the new language, “‘ Treat,’ ‘treated,’ or ‘treatment’ does not include the administration of vaccinations.”

The bill would also expand the rights of individuals during public health emergencies to refuse mandatory examinations, tests, and treatments “for reasons of health, religion, or conscience.” Residents must submit a written refusal to the state attorney general explaining their rejection of public health orders.

Despite the new protections, however, residents could still be subjected to quarantine or isolation if they refuse the surgeon general’s orders.
The surgeon general would also no longer be able to forcibly treat residents “if there is no practical method to isolate or quarantine the individual.”

The new amendment also adds new restrictions on the executive branch’s ability to impose a public health declaration of emergency, now requiring the approval of the legislature to extend the order beyond 90 days.

“Any subsequent renewals must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of each chamber of the Legislature before the declaration expires, with each renewal extending the expiration of the declaration for 30 days. A declaration of a public health emergency automatically terminates if it is not timely renewed before its expiration in accordance with this paragraph.”

Yarborough’s proposal builds on Florida precedent since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November 2021, the Florida legislature signed a series of measures protecting Florida workers from mandatory vaccinations.

It is currently prohibited for schools, private businesses, and government entities to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for students or workers. Businesses that violate the protections can be fined a minimum of $10,000 per offense. Florida schools are also restricted from imposing face mask policies and quarantining healthy students.

Yarborough was an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s COVID lockdowns and vaccine mandates at the time. While serving in the Florida House of Representatives, he wrote in 2021,

“President Biden’s vaccine mandate is an attack on our Constitution and Americans’ freedoms. In Florida, we protect our people and businesses and we must fight against this blatant federal government overreach.”

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There is no House companion bill to Yarborough’s proposal. If the senate passes the bill and receives the governor’s signature, it would be effective on July 1.


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