Rep. Clay Higgins

Rep. Clay Higgins (The Advocate)

After missing almost a month of floor votes while recovering from his second contracted case of COVID-19, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins introduced a bill Friday that would make it illegal for any employer to mandate an employee get vaccinated for the disease.

The announcement of the filing comes on the same day that hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Louisiana climbed to 1,740, the highest level since Jan. 21. It also comes as the Louisiana Department of Health instituted a new feature on its COVID-19 tracking page to show how many of those included in the current week's statistics were unvaccinated.

According to that data, for the week ending July 21 unvaccinated Louisianans make up 90 percent of new cases, 85 percent of deaths and 89 percent of those hospitalized in the state.

Higgins' bill, entitled the "Employee Rights and Freedom Act," would prevent an employer from mandating an employee undertake any medical procedure, including vaccination.

“Every American who wants a vaccine should receive it," Higgins wrote in a prepared statement. "However, the decision to get vaccinated or not is a personal and private medical decision." 

The bill itself contains no details on how this would be implemented and even less direction on how current employee mandated medical functions like drug testing, counseling, rehabilitation and other required vaccinations, like those for hepatitis among health care workers, would be affected.

Currently, only 36.8 of Louisiana residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Slightly more, 41.8 percent, have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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