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Here's why Arkansas can't enact a COVID vaccine mandate

A new law signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson bans enacting a requirement of a COVID-19 vaccine by state or local officials.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — At a press conference Tuesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters that a new law he signed this year bans COVID-19 vaccine requirements being set by state or local officials.

According to the new law, the state along with a state agency, or state or local officials may not enact a mandate for COVID-19 vaccines.

In order for a medical facility controlled or owned by the state to require the COVID-19 vaccine, it shall receive approval from the legislative council.

Under the law, a state agency can't make it a requirement to receive a vaccine in order to be employed. The same applies for obtaining a license, certificate, or permit from a state agency.

The governor and the health secretary can request a meeting with legislative committees on public health if "a variant of [COVID-19] occurs and mutates to be a more virulent strain that impacts children" within two years from the date the FDA approved the vaccine.

On August 23, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 or older. The vaccine is still under emergency use authorization for people 12 through 15. 

In the meeting with the committees on public health, welfare, and labor, legislators can make recommendations regarding the vaccination of children to the legislative council for approval.

Recommendations may include a "limited suspension" of the law for students and school staff or a "complete suspension" of the law. Standard exemptions for students are still applicable.

The law does not apply to private businesses in the state.

This law expires two years after the COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the FDA.