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New 'medical freedom' law outlaws requiring COVID-19 vaccine to access public spaces

ABC News logo ABC News 7/27/2021
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New Hampshire residents cannot be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to "access any public facility, any public benefit, or any public service" according to a new bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

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The so-called "medical freedom" bill does not override state vaccine law, which "requires that all children enrolled in any school, pre-school, or child care have certain immunizations to protect them and those around them from vaccine preventable diseases," according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently listed as a requirement for attending school, nor is it approved for children younger than 12.

Chris Sununu holding a phone: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu speaks at an auto race, July 18, 2021, in Loudon, N.H. © Charles Krupa/AP, FILE New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu speaks at an auto race, July 18, 2021, in Loudon, N.H.

Other exceptions to the new law include correctional facilities, such as jails and prisons, where immunizations can be mandated "when a direct threat exists," as well as county nursing homes and medical facilities operated by the state.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: People hold signs protesting vaccines at the "World Wide Rally for Freedom", an anti-mask and anti-vaccine rally, at the State House in Concord, N.H., May 15, 2021. © Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images, FILE People hold signs protesting vaccines at the "World Wide Rally for Freedom", an anti-mask and anti-vaccine rally, at the State House in Concord, N.H., May 15, 2021.

"As he has long said, Governor Sununu believes that private entities have the choice to require vaccinations," Brandon Pratt, the governor's deputy communications director, told ABC News in a statement. "The simple fact remains that the safest thing one can do is get vaccinated as soon as possible to help increase the state’s already high vaccination rate."

Chris Sununu holding a phone © Charles Krupa/AP, FILE

New Hampshire's law stands in contrast to some other parts of the Northeast, which have edged toward mandatory vaccinations in recent days.

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In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that COVID-19 vaccination would be compulsory for all city workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, starting Sept. 13. City workers will have the option of getting tested weekly for COVID-19 if they choose not to get vaccinated.

"We’re doing this out of a sense of urgency," de Blasio said. "It is about protecting the workforce, their health and safety, and the people they serve."

New Hampshire's vaccination rate is slightly higher than the national average. As of Sunday, 64% of residents had received at least one dose, and 58% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, 57% of Americans have gotten at least one shot, and 49% are fully vaccinated.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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