JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi government entities could not withhold services or refuse jobs to people who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 under a bill that passed the Republican-controlled state House on Thursday.
That prohibition includes state agencies, city and county governments and schools, community colleges and universities.
House Bill 1509 also says private businesses and government entities could not require a COVID-19 vaccination for any employee who has a “sincerely held religious objection.”
COVID-19 vaccine mandates have not been widespread in Mississippi, and the state has one of the lowest rates of vaccination against the virus in the United States. About 50% of eligible Mississippi residents have received at least two doses, according to a Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker. The national rate is 63.5%.
Public health officials say COVID-19 vaccinations do not always prevent illness but are effective at decreasing severe cases leading to hospitalization or death.