Idaho bill would criminalize giving mRNA vaccines – the tech used in popular COVID vaccines

Two Republican Idaho lawmakers last week introduced a bill that would criminalize the administration of mRNA vaccines across the state.

Co-sponsored by state Sen. Tammy Nichols and Rep. Judy Boyle, House Bill 154 was introduced Feb. 15 in the House Health & Welfare Committeeand would ban all mRNA technology in the state.

If passed, the Idaho state code would be amended so that those administering mRNA vaccines to any person or mammal within the state would face misdemeanor charges.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person may not provide or administer a vaccine developed using messenger ribonucleic acid technology for use in an individual or any other mammal in this state," the bill states. "A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor."

Although the bill itself doesn't specifically mention COVID-19 vaccines,KTVB7 News reported that during Nichols' presentation to the committee she referred to the two COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

The two vaccines are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and supported by various public health agencies. However, Nichols raised safety and efficacy concerns, saying, "We have issues (the vaccine) was fast-tracked."

The bill has yet to be considered on the Idaho House floor as it still requires a hearing and vote by the committee.


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What to know about COVID and mRNA vaccines

Medical experts, regulatory agencies and health officials say the mRNA vaccines manufactured by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are not only safe but also highly effective at combatting severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalization and death.

"Misinformed individuals have gained political power and are currently trying to use their positions to advance agendas that will limit citizens choices," said Dr. Daniel Griffin, chief of infectious diseases at Optum Care, a network of health care providers.

"The recent bill introduced in Idaho is another frightening example of politicians and special interest groups trying to take away the rights of individuals and parents to make healthcare decisions."

In a COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA spurs cells to make a protein normally found on the surface of the coronavirus. That way, when the immune system sees the actual virus, it will recognize the protein and attack the virus before it can do serious damage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the COVID vaccines are "safe and effective" after being "evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials."

"The vaccines met the Food and Drug Administration's rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization," the agency says on its website.

Fact check: Reports of adverse events due to COVID-19 vaccines are unverified

More: There are at least 500 coronaviruses. We must develop next-gen vaccines now, experts say.

How would a ban on mRNA technology impact Idaho?

A ban on mRNA technology in Idaho would prevent the state's population from accessing the technology, including the available COVID-19 vaccines and future mRNA vaccines.

Health care workers would also be put at risk for administering either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines despite there being a preference for mRNA vaccines over the Novavax or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers are also working on mRNA vaccines that would prevent other types of diseases, including cancer.

Small trials using mRNA-based cancer treatment vaccines have been tested for nearly a decade and some have shown "promising" early results, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Further research has also shown that mRNA vaccines "have elicited potent immunity against infectious disease targets in animal models of influenza virus, Zika virus, rabies virus, and others," according to a study from the scientific journal Nature in 2018.

Graphics: Here's how mRNA vaccines work

COVID cases in Idaho

With the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 growing every day throughout the U.S. and across the world, experts and officials have said the pandemic is not yet over.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are likely far lower than the actual number because of limited testing.

According to state data in Idaho, at least 517,540 people have been reported to have COVID-19 and at least 5,389 have died.

And since vaccination efforts have varied by state, Idaho has been reported to have one of the lowest vaccination rates. According to state data, only 975,583 people out of 1.9 million are fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Idaho bill would criminalize administration of mRNA COVID vaccines