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South Carolina Bill Would Outlaw Asking About COVID Vaccination Status

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/27/2022 Khaleda Rahman
A COVID-19 vaccine record card is seen at Florida Memorial University Vaccination Site in Miami Gardens, Florida on April 14, 2021. © Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images A COVID-19 vaccine record card is seen at Florida Memorial University Vaccination Site in Miami Gardens, Florida on April 14, 2021.

Republican lawmakers in South Carolina have introduced a bill that would make it a criminal offense for anyone, including employers, to ask about anyone's COVID-19 vaccination status.

The legislation, H. 4848, was introduced on January 20.

"Any employee, officer, agent, or other representative of a public, nonprofit, or private entity who inquires about the COVID-19 vaccination status of any student, employee, member, or anyone else seeking admission on the entity's premises is guilty of a misdemeanor," the proposed bill states.

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The offense would be punishable by a fine of up to $14,000 fine or up to a year in jail, or both.

South Carolina Rep. Mike Burns is spearheading the proposed bill, while Reps. Patrick Haddon, Steven Wayne Lond and William Chumley are among the bill's sponsors.

Burns said a person's vaccination status is private medical information, and should not have to be disclosed to employers.

"We have people in South Carolina that are losing their jobs because they have to report to their employer that they're unvaccinated," Burns told Fox News.

Burns also said unvaccinated people are even having to pay more in medical insurance premiums as they are being put in a different category by insurance companies.

"They're charging up to an extra $100 a week more than the vaccinated people," he said. "It is absolutely insane to do this kind of thing."

The Biden administration has now officially withdrawn a mandate that would have required workers at large companies to get vaccinated or face regular testing requirements.

The Supreme Court blocked the vaccine-or-test mandate earlier this month, after concluding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had overstepped its authority.

The bill introduced in South Carolina, if it goes into law, would prohibit employers from enforcing vaccine requirements of their own accord.

But Burns conceded that the legislation may not become law as only "about five percent of all the bills" that are filed end up doing so. But he said he wanted to introduce the legislation because people "are getting pretty sick and tired of these mandates."

He has been contacted for additional comment.

About 80 percent of people aged over five years old in the U.S. have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Carolina's vaccination rates are lagging behind, with only 61.9 percent of eligible South Carolina residents having had at least one vaccine dose, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's dashboard.

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