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By Barbara Loe Fisher
In a year that has seen more than 1,000 vaccine-related bills introduced in state legislatures, many of the bills responding to the March 2020 COVID pandemic emergency declaration, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee held an historic hearing on May 6, 2021 on a bill (SB1669) that prohibits employment discrimination and right of access restrictions based on vaccination status or proof of immunity. It is a model state bill containing strong informed consent provisions aligned with the mission of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)1 and it serves as a model for other states. The hearing was also a government role model, exemplifying freedom of speech and the consideration with which responsible lawmakers and constituents should treat each other in this Constitutional Republic at public hearings where civil conversations about important topics are held.
The bill was introduced to the committee in the morning by sponsor Senator Bob Hall and the committee took five hours of testimony from Texans speaking for and against the bill, most of the proceedings graciously managed by Committee Chair Bryan Hughes. A significant amount of the hearing was filled with testimony from nurses, doctors and other medical professionals testifying in support of the bill because their employers had fired them or were threatening to fire them if they refused to get one or two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Throughout the hearing, Senator Hall steadfastly defended the purpose of his bill when he was challenged by witnesses representing medical and school organizations opposed to the bill and when he entered into a friendly debate with a fellow Senator committee member toward the end of the afternoon.
Testifying on behalf of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) was Dawn Richardson who is NVIC’s Director of Advocacy. She has worked for 25 years educating Texas lawmakers about the need to protect vaccine informed consent rights and has worked with families to educate lawmakers in many other states since she created NVIC’s free online Advocacy Portal in 2010.
Following is a summary of selected pro and con testimony taken at this extraordinary hearing, which is an example of the informed debate about vaccine mandates, especially COVID-19 vaccine mandates, taking place in homes, businesses and legislative offices in every state in America.
A Bill to Prevent Discrimination and Segregation
In his introductory statement, Senator Hall talked about being contacted by constituents that they are being required to get COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment in Texas. He described the purpose of his bill:
“This bill prevents any type of discrimination or segregation based on vaccine or immunity status and would prohibit forced vaccinations across the board. If you are an individual who has chosen not to take a particular vaccine or vaccines, this bill will help ensure that you will get or keep your job, your health or life insurance policies, your access to government and private services and more.”
He added that the fact a person has not been vaccinated does not mean they are physically sick or that their informed choice not to use a particular vaccine is immoral:
“It is not right to treat unvaccinated individuals as if they are sick individuals or as if the choice they have made is morally wrong. No one in our society should be hindered from participating in business, schools or our government just because they have made a very personal decision for themselves or for their children not to receive a particular vaccine or vaccines. The mere fact that a person has not received a specific vaccine does not make them a threat to others health and safety.”
No Liability for Employers That Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines
Senator Hall pointed out that COVID-19 vaccines are still experimental and have not been formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that, through Apr. 23, 2021, there had been more than 3,000 deaths reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).2 He was especially critical of the lack of liability for vaccine manufacturers,3 or for any person who administers a vaccine or for any employer requiring COVID-19 vaccine, for example, as a condition of employment. He said:
“If a business requires you to take a vaccine, all the responsibility physically and financially is on you personally. The business has no responsibility if you have a mild adverse reaction, a lifelong disability or even die. No one but you have to carry all the risk. The pharmaceutical companies and medical personnel have absolute and total immunity from anything that happens to you. You and your family will carry the entire burden no matter what it might be for as long as it may last.”
Senator Hall concluded his introduction with a call for other committee members to pass the bill out of committee, reemphasizing that:
"If we do not pass legislation to address this issue, then we are allowing mandates for vaccines that have injured people and for which medical personnel and manufacturers are not liable. It is well past time for Texas to lead the fight against vaccine mandates and discrimination. Florida has already signed into law a bill that prohibits discrimination against customers and students who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine…Our state has a tradition of being a safe haven for people to exercise their rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is time for us to be a leading example to the rest of the nation.”
Doctors Testify About Natural Immunity, COVID-19 Vaccine Alternatives, Vaccine Reactions and Opposition to Coercive Vaccine Policies
The committee invited four physicians to open up testimony with their perspective on vaccine mandates by businesses and other entities, especially the mandating of COVID-19 vaccine to prevent Texans from being employed or moving freely within the state without showing proof of vaccination.
Emergency Room Physician: “We have safe, readily available alternatives and the patients should have their individual right to decide what direction they are going to go”
The first invited testimony by the committee was given in support of the bill by Richard Bartlett, MD, an emergency room physician in Lubbock, who has been on the front lines for more than a year treating COVID patients entering a hospital emergency room. A specialist in advanced trauma life support and a recipient of the meritorious service award from the Texas Health Commissioner under Governor Rick Perry, Dr. Bartlett pointed out that inhaled Budesonide has been used as an effective outpatient treatment for COVID-19. He said it is an FDA-approved drug that has been on the market for 28 years and is safe enough to be given to two-pound premature babies and, with a 58 percent of Texans having natural immunity from recovering from SARS-Cov-2 infections plus 33 percent of Texans already vaccinated, 4 there is no need to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations. Dr. Barlett said:
“We have alternatives to an experimental vaccine. We have safe, readily available alternatives and the patients should have their individual right to decide what direction they are going to go.”
Dr. Bartlett added that in his last emergency room shift he had no COVID patients coming in for treatment, which is very different from a year ago when hospital staffs were overwhelmed and 90 percent of patients were dying on ventilators. On the other hand, he said, “working in the ER, I am now seeing more people who are having complications from the COVID shot. They are short of breath for two weeks after they receive the shot….they are having temporary neurologic episodes…they are having dizziness and lightheadedness and feel like they are going to pass out. So I am seeing more complications from the shot in Lubbock, a college town, in 18 year olds in excellent health before the shot coming in four days later with four days of symptoms, or a gentleman who’s short of breath for two weeks or the lady who falls flat on her face.”
Integrative Family Practice Physician: If You have natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2, you have increased risk of COVID vaccine adverse events
The second physician invited to speak, who supports the bill, was Ben Edwards, MD, an integrative family practice physician with offices In Lubbock, Abilene and San Angelo who graduated from Baylor University and Houston Medical School. He reminded the committee that evidenced based medicine is the integration of “best practice medicine with clinical expertise and patient values. Patient values trump clinical expertise and clinical expertise trumps scientific evidence,” he said.
Dr. Edwards expressed concern about the gross underestimation of COVID vaccine adverse events in the US because of historic underreporting to VAERS, stating:
“Personally, I have received numerous reports from family members of my patients and close friends of my patients that, within hours and days of receiving the [COVID-19] vaccine, they’ve suffered from stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, blood clots, sudden death and, as far as these family members knew, none of these were reported by the medical staff as being associated with the vaccine, so my concern is that there is, indeed, a vast underreporting.”
He also said he was concerned that “studies have shown a two to three fold increased risk of adverse events to this vaccine if you have already had COVID,56 adding that “if you've already had COVID naturally, and some of these will be asymptomatic people, and some people won't have a positive antibody test because their T cells were strong enough. They didn't need to mount an antibody response. So you can't catch all these guys with an antibody screen. But if you've had natural immunity - over 50% of Texans have7 - then you're at a two to threefold increased risk of adverse reaction if you get vaccinated.”
He explained that natural immunity confers a robust immunity8 and there is evidence that the first coronavirus outbreak involving SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that emerged from China in 2002 conferred long lasting natural immunity to individuals who recovered from that coronavirus infection9 and they may now be protected against SARS-CoV-2, as well.10 Dr. Edwards said:
“There’s a study from the original SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) back in 2002. The people who survived that first SARS [outbreak], they’ve looked at them 17 years later and they showed a robust immunity still to SaRS-CoV-1. Historically, we’ve always known that natural immunity tends to last a lifetime, i.e. [with] measles – natural immunity will last a lifetime.11 So no, I don’t believe there is any need to vaccinate someone who has already acquired natural immunity. And we need to remember natural immunity is more than just antibodies. You have T-cells, natural killer cells. You’ve got the innate immune system response. You’ve got a robust immune system, not just antibodies.”12 13
Dr. Edwards said there is a need to preserve the individual doctor patient relationship because “it is a sacred relationship and I believe nothing should come between that.” On a personal note, he said he believes that “God gave us an amazing robust immune system and I don’t think you can improve on God. Not everyone honestly has to agree with that but those who do and choose to rely on that natural immunity, I think we need to uphold that right and do so without any adverse outcomes on their livelihood.”
When Senator Hall asked if there was anything people could do about their immune system, Dr. Edwards replied that we should “steward this God-given design through proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, sunlight [and] most importantly, peace, not fear. Fear has overcome this nation. The spirit of fear that I don’t submit to has overcome this nation in my opinion, and that’s influencing policy decisions…so yes, there is much that you can do [so] your immune system will do what it’s designed to do.”
Family Practice Physician: “We must preserve Texans' right to have medical autonomy”
The third physician invited to speak was Amy Offutt, MD, a family practice physician in Marble Falls, who worked in the pharmaceutical research industry before graduating from the University of Texas Medical School. Testifying in support of the bill, she said that she has been successfully treating patients since March 2021 for COVID-19 on an outpatient basis, including 579 acutely ill patients as old as 98 years with only 10 hospitalizations and one death. The COVID-19 death was a transplant patient.
She made a strong statement affirming the ethical principle of informed consent to medical risk taking. Dr. Offutt said:
“One of the main things I wanted to share today was that informed consent is the core to shared decision-making and good medicine. In fact, the American Medical Association has published a code of medical ethics about informed consent that says, "Informed consent to medical treatment is fundamental in both ethics and law. Patients have the right to receive information and ask questions about recommended treatments so that they can make well-considered decisions about care. Successful communication in the patient-physician relationship fosters trust and supports shared decision-making.”14
Dr. Offutt agreed with Dr. Edwards that naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19 is protective.15 She said that she has patients who had mild COVID symptoms and didn’t go to the doctor or get a PCR test but believe they have had it and want to get tested. She said “there’s now a T-cell test that is on the market for $150.16 The patients can order it online for themselves. They don’t need a doctor’s order [and it] reports 99 percent specificity, which is pretty high.”
She added that vaccine safety must be prioritized, along with medical autonomy:
“Safety has got to be a priority for our state as we follow ongoing data collection for these injections, which are still under study…My medical opinion is that we must preserve Texans' right to have medical autonomy, especially in this situation.”
Pediatrician: “Children Are Not Little Adults”
The fourth physician presenting invited testimony was Angelina Farella, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Webster in support of the bill. She emphasized that there are knowledge gaps with regard to the safety of COVID-19 vaccines17 and said, “Never in history before have we given medications that were not FDA approved to people who were not initially studied in the trial.”18 19
Even though she is a pediatrician specializes in providing care for children, she said she has been treating adults with COVID-19. “We now have early effective outpatient treatment for COVID. We've had it for a long time. As a pediatrician, I stepped up to the plate in Texas to help adults because doctors in my community shut their doors, locked their doors and refused to treat patients.”
Dr. Farella discussed the biological differences between children and adults and the way their immune systems respond to the SARS-CoV-2 infection, with children having much far fewer complications and a very low mortality rate. 20 She strongly criticized the masking of children, which she said can cause them physical and psychological harm:21 22 23 24
“Children are not little adults. Children have a 99.997 percent survivability from COVID… There’s evidence that these children are actually a buffer. What that means is that these children for some reason do not spread the disease. Children are not super spreaders. So what we are doing to our children right now is actually criminal. We are isolating them. We are putting them in masks, which is also clinically dangerous. We are also psychologically telling them that if they bring COVID home, they’re going to kill grandma, granddad, uncle, mom, and dad. That is a horrible, horrible situation to put on our kids.”25
Senator Hall had this exchange with Dr. Farella:
Senator Hall: With your experience, you're talking about going back to 1999 or maybe , has there been another vaccine [with] the high incidence of serious hospitalizations and deaths that this vaccine is now showing?
Dr. Farella: Not to this extent. Absolutely not. Not even close.
Senator Hall: Any other vaccine would have been pulled from the market?
Dr. Farella: Absolutely. It would have been pulled probably within the first few [inaudible], just as we've seen in the past.
Senator Hall: And have you seen any other vaccine that was put out for the public that skipped the animal test? 26
Dr. Farella: Never before. Especially for children.
Following Dr. Farella’s testimony, the committee adjourned until the afternoon and reconvened in the Senate chamber, at which point public testimony was taken from Texans who signed up to make a comment.
Senator Hall: "They Can’t Go Home and Suck the Vaccine out”
The Committee Chair Senator Hughes Brian Hughes welcomed the first witness, a nurse practitioner, and requested that he first remove his mask before testifying “so we can read your lips and hear you a little better.“
Gordon Mattimo, RN, testified against the bill because he said it would “take some of my liberty away,” which he clarified as the liberty to choose a pediatric practice for his daughter that refuses to treat unvaccinated children. Senator Hall asked him if an employer mandates that employees get a vaccine, should the employer also accept responsibility for any adverse effects?
“The question really applies to any vaccine that someone is forced to take,” said Senator Hall. “Who’s going to assume responsibility? Because, right now [in Texas], a person chooses. They make that decision on their own. And when they do that [get vaccinated], they assume the risk that’s associated with it.” Hall continued:
“This is a medical procedure. It’s not like requiring employees to wear steel-toed shoes or a helmet or a vest – they can take those off at night. They can’t go home and suck the vaccine out. They have for life changed their body to satisfy the employer. Who’s going to assume that responsibility?”
The witness eventually responded, “It’s the law. It’s not a question for me to answer.”
Texans for Vaccine Choice: “We must assert here and now that vaccines are always voluntary in Texas.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Executive Director of Texans for Vaccine Choice, who is the mother of a profoundly disabled adult daughter, Jackie Schlegel talked about how Texas parents are “being kicked out of their pediatrician’s offices, their children being left without a medical home…nurses, who have been fired for declining of a vaccine and employees who have been fired for declining an unapproved experimental COVID-19 vaccine…parents, who aren’t able to find childcare providers who will accept their child’s vaccine exemption form, even though the provider is required to do so under Texas law.” She said:
“This is slippery slope of vaccine requirements and it has reached its logical [conclusion]. And we must assert here and now that vaccines are always voluntary in Texas. Texans are capable of making healthcare decisions for themselves and their children without government interference. We should not need an exemption in order to exercise our rights. If exercising our rights to make our own medical decisions can result in losing other rights, then we never truly had the right to decide in the first place.”
Mothers Want to Protect Sons Injured by Vaccines from Further Harm
Next were several Texas parents with disabled children testifying in support of the bill, including Star Stevens, a pastor’s wife and mother with five children, whose son, an athlete, was severely injured by three “back to school” booster [shots] in 2011. She said within hours of the shots, [it looked like] “he had a half of a tennis ball had been placed underneath his skin – that’s how bad it was. He began to have trouble breathing, talking, eating and walking - he had paralysis of the nervous system. It’s been 10 years and his health still is not restored to him. More vaccines, especially those that are not adequately tested, will harm him further.”
She added, “I just received a text an hour ago from one of our church members [who said], “One of our lifelong friends took the COVID vaccine Friday. He called in sick to work Sunday and we found him dead in his apartment this morning.”
Denise Tucker, also a mother of a vaccine injured adult son, talked about being abandoned by the medical profession after her son was injured by vaccines and her fear that her adult son’s now dormant seizure disorder will come back if he is forced to be revaccinated as a condition of employment:
“There are so many people who were previously vaccine injured as babies or young children, as my now 23 year old son was, and their pediatricians failed to report the injury to the VAERS system at the time, nor did they provide a medical exemption of any future vaccines. We were basically ghosted by our pediatrician at the time, despite his agreeing that it was a vaccine injury. He sent us to a neurologist who also corroborated this finding, but neither of them provided any type of support, guidance, or written verification.
“As a young mother, I did not know this day would come where the choice of whether or not to be vaccinated could possibly be taken away…His seizure disorder has gone dormant after suffering for the first five years of his life. If he were to be mandated or coerced into getting another vaccine, his seizure disorder would most certainly return and he would then become dependent on the state to care for him…Please vote yes on SB1669 to ensure that do one is ever forced to succumb to further injury from any medical procedure or patented product put out on the market.”
NVIC’s Dawn Richardson Defends Freedom from Vaccine Mandates
NVIC’s Director of Advocacy Dawn Richardson, who led a successful effort between 1997 and 2003 to secure a conscientious belief exemption to vaccination in Texas, testified in support of the bill. She thanked Senator Hall for “paving the way to keep Texas families free from vaccine mandates” and emphasized that the bill does not stop anyone from getting vaccinated. She said:
"SB 1669 prohibits discrimination or segregation based on vaccination or immunity status and prohibits [forced] vaccination in all areas of your life. There is absolutely nothing in the bill stopping anybody from getting vaccinated - that is an important point. This is a personal medical decision where your vaccination or immunity status is your legally protected private medical information, according to current Texas law with the Texas Vaccine Registry, that nobody should make you divulge to obtain permission to participate in society.”
Dawn described how travel restrictions, employment discrimination and right to access public venues over masking and testing for COVID-19 has been extended to vaccination. She told the committee
“You’re going to hear from several employees today who have been fired or threatened to be fired over COVID vaccines. Nobody is saying reasonable precautions shouldn’t be taken, but it crosses the line when healthy, law abiding citizens are excluded from day-to-day life for declining a vaccine.”
NVIC Advocacy Portal: Bills in 47 States Have Provisions Like Texas Senate Bill 1669
Under questioning by Senator Hall, Dawn described how NVIC’s Advocacy Portal staff tracks vaccine related bills across the country, analyzes them and issues position statements. She said that in 2021, there are 47 states which have bills that have been filed containing parts of the provisions in Texas Senate Bill 1669. She declared:
“This is not a fad, this is a revolution. Americans are getting to their legislators and they are listening. Right now, passed already - Alaska has a bill that was passed that established exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines and prohibits documentation. Arkansas prohibits mandatory vaccinations for COVID. No [vaccine] passports in Arkansas. Florida prohibits government and businesses from requiring proof of COVID vaccine (Senate Bill 2006)…Indiana prohibits a state or local unit from requiring a vaccine passport [and] prohibits the division of motor vehicles from collecting or indicating vaccine status on state IDs…these are all posted on NVICAdvocacy.org, every single bill. Texas is part of the push forward to stop this nonsense.”
States Keeping Emergency Declarations in Place to Get Federal Money
Dawn noted that under the [Texas} education code there is an exception for vaccine exemptions under 38.001(F): “A person who has not received the immunizations required in this section for reasons of conscience, including because of a person’s religious beliefs, may be excluded from schools in times of emergency or epidemic declared by the commissioner of public health.” She said that Texas and many states receive federal money and are keeping the emergency declarations in place, even after opening up the state, because they want to keep getting federal funding. As long as the emergency declaration is in place for COVID-19, the health department is allowed to add COVID-19 vaccines to the schedule and not recognize exemptions for it. Dawn told the committee,
“That’s discrimination, it’s segregation, and when we talk about segregation, I’m talking about 60s level segregation – different schools, different water fountains, different transportation. If we don’t pass a bill like this one, that’s what we’re heading towards.”
NVIC Advocacy Portal Issued Alert One Day Before Texas Hearing, NVIC Texting Service Kept Hearing Attendees Informed
The day before the Texas Senate hearing, registered users of the free NVIC Advocacy Portal in Texas received an Action Alert from NVIC announcing the quickly scheduled hearing on SB1669, asking for public testimony. Many private citizens who testified on May 6 were responding to NVIC’s call to action.
During the hearing, when the venue was changed from a meeting room to the Senate chamber, NVIC’s free Texting Service let users know of the change. To sign up for NVIC’s Action Texts tailored to your state, text the full name of your state to 202-618-5488. You will be asked to provide other information that confirms and protects NVIC text communications with you. If you decide you don't want to receive NVIC's texts, you can unsubscribe at any time.
Texas Workers Describe Coercion, Discrimination, Job Loss
Most of the rest of the afternoon was filled with testimony from Texans from all walks of life, professions and political and ideological positions. They explained why they supported or opposed SB1699.
The full 5 hour morning and afternoon hearing can be watched or listen to on the website of the Texas Senate.
Teacher: “We cannot continue to segregate based on vaccine status”
Rachel Clark testified in support of the bill. She said she moved to Texas from California to escape medical tyranny and she talked about being medically exempted from masking but blocked from teaching on campus for the past year. She described how she is required by the school where she works to divulge private medical information and is being constantly pressured to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said:
“My employer said they would honor [my] medical exemption for the mask mandate. That medical exemption included me staying home, working virtually I was not allowed on campus, I haven’t been allowed on campus all year long. I wanted to go back to school, I was one of the teachers that did actually want to go back to school and hug my kids because I read the medical studies and I read the journals and [I knew] what they were doing was wrong. The kids are not carriers of this [disease] and we should have been there and not with all these excessive protocols.
“I cannot take the vaccine. My son cannot take the vaccine.,..We’re supposed to go back to school normally, we’re not going to be virtual next year and now every day I fill out a health screener and I work from home and every day my employer asks me – did you get the vaccine? I have to give my employer my medical information. That is wrong.
“Already stores have declined us. So what’s next – the vaccine passports? I thought this was supposed to be a constitutional state. That’s why I moved here. I moved here from California where a medical tyranny exists. Florida and South Dakota are freer than us right now. They value the Constitution, they value medical autonomy. We cannot continue to segregate based on vaccine status…”
Registered Nurse: “It is inhumane to [be forced to] sacrifice your health in order to feed your family.”
Christine Bennett, RN, who is the primary means of financial support for her family, testified in support of the bill. She said that she was injured by an MMR vaccine because she was required to get it to keep her job and that she cannot risk further injury to her health by being forced to get a COVID shot. She said:
"I’m a registered nurse of 40 years. I hold an active license in the State of Texas. I’m also a pharmaceutical representative. Over the past decade, I have been the major economic support for my family. Because of the invasion into my vaccine status, my livelihood and my personal health has been under attack. My ability to support my family is and has been threatened.”
“Being scared and needing to support my family, I was forced to take an MMR vaccine. I had already shown titers to measles and mumps because I had those naturally in childhood, and they were no big deal…Because of the MMR, I now have an autoimmune disease that threatens my life and my ability to work and care for my family. I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of money to try to heal and now my ability to service my accounts and do my job is under attack again because I cannot take the COVID injection and risk further injury to my health.
“Industry has gone too far forcing medical interventions on people. This crosses the line between the doctor-patient relationship. It is inhumane to [be forced to] sacrifice your health in order to feed your family. Please support Senate bill 1669.”
Special Needs Educator: ‘We must keep the medical history of each and every one of our citizens private.”
The next witness testifying in support of the bill was Sheila Ealey, PhD who holds a doctorate in education specializing in autism and intellectual disabilities, is the mother of a vaccine injured son. She also has multiple health conditions that prevent her from wearing a mask or being vaccinated and she called on the committee to keep Texans personal medical histories private and not open to employers or other entities in the state. She said:
“I have not been able to wear a mask and yet I’ve been asked over and over why I don’t wear a mask. I’ve traveled internationally over the past year and within this country and, yet, with as compromised as my T-cells are [and] my immune system is I have not caught COVID-19. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and even in my frail state, I stand here and speak to you today.
“We must keep the medical history of each and every one of our citizens private. When I go to see specialists, I don’t want the first question to be whether or not I’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine. I would like to talk about the cancer that I have, the congestive heart failure that I’ve overcome, my muscular dystrophy…I want to be able to say to my children that I worked to make sure that the Constitution means something to each and every one of them and the children and the families I’ve spoken to over and over again.”
Military Retiree and Texas Business Owner: “Personal interest should always trump business interests. We can always make money. We can always have a business. But when we start infringing on the health and wellness of others, we’ve crossed the line.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Ron Ealey said he is a 26-year military retiree and also a business owner and does not believe he should be “weaponized to hold employees accountable for medical procedures.”
He said, “If we’re looking to do things like that, where do we stop?...What we’re looking at right now is something that changes history forever.”
He went on to talk about the days when segregation in America was being practiced and slaves could not move freely without showing identification. He said:
“America has come a long way from the days of segregation…so if we start going back to that in order to move around this country, we are required to take a jab or take a medical procedure, we’re moving back to the time when slaves couldn’t move around this country without showing their papers, when people didn’t have freedom of autonomy of their bodies.”
Following is an exchange between Senator Hall and Mr. Ealey:
Senator Hall: As you said, you're a businessman. You have your business.
Ron Ealey: Yes, sir.
Senator Hall: And right now the law is silent on how you run your business, for the most part?
Ron Ealey: Yes.
Senator Hall: We're a state that recognizes the free enterprise system. We feel that's the engine-
Ron Ealey: Correct.
Senator Hall: ... that goes right along with personal liberty. But when you have, just like we have, individual liberty, where my liberties end, where yours begin, we have to draw a line for those. And then we have the business interest and private property-
Ron Ealey: Correct.
Senator Hall: ... owners and we are constantly having to draw a line between where the rights of the property owners and the rights of businesses collide and make a decision on where we draw the line. In this, we're talking about drawing the line between individual liberty and business rights.
Ron Ealey: Right.
Senator Hall: In between those two, I would think that based on the way our founding fathers wrote the documents of what's the rank here is of importance, would you agree that personal liberty trumps business interest?
Ron Ealey: I absolutely agree that personal interest should always trump business interests. We can always make money. We can always have a business, but when we start infringing on health, wellness of others, we've crossed the line.
Senator Hall: So we, as the government, like we write laws for OSHA that protects the safety of workers in your business, there's certain things you can't do-
Ron Ealey: Correct.
Senator Hall: ... in protecting the interest of them and their environments - so if we were to tell you, you couldn't mandate medical procedures for your employees, do you think that would diminish your ability as a business person?
Ron Ealey: Not at all, Senator, because here's the difference. OSHA regulates on the job, the things employees will do on the job. Mandating a vaccine, well, once that person received that vaccine, they leave my job, it takes on a whole other meaning at that point. So requiring them to wear a mask or a hard hat or shoes to perform the job, that is one thing, but to carry a vaccine that may alter or hurt them permanently, I can't agree with that.
Senator Hall: Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate your testimony.
Ron Ealey: Thank you.
Senator Hall: And thank you for your service.
Registered Nurse Paula Anz: “We have to every year give a reason why we’re not taking the flu vaccine because it is required by our employer”
Paula Anz, RN has been a nurse for 27 years and currently works as an operating room nurse for a large Dallas hospital, testified in support of the bill. She talked about how the hospital administration is “very much guilting us” into taking the COVID-19 vaccine. She said that 65 percent of the employees are vaccinated and “every day an email goes out asking us what we are going to do.”
“I really feel that is a violation of our HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) rights. There are a lot of nurses who do not take vaccines. We don’t take the flu vaccine and we have to every year give a reason why we’re not taking the flu vaccine because it is required by our employer as well. I feel I have the right not to put anything in my body I don’t want."
She said she worked in the emergency room from March to July of 2020 and was exposed multiple times every day and did not experience COVID-19 disease and does not plan to take the vaccine. She added:
“So what I am hearing from my co-workers that ended up going ahead and taking the vaccine is “I just felt guilty, everybody made me feel guilty so I just went on and took it.” So even people who are having concerns – mainly young nurses who haven’t had children – have concerns about if it is going to affect their ability to have children in the future.”
When Senator Hall said, “Have you asked them [hospital administration] if they are going to assume responsibility for any adverse effects?” she answered:
“When I went to work for the hospital I work for - I've been there eight years - I had never been required to take the flu vaccine. So I can speak to this because I said, ‘I've personally taken care of people who've had adverse reactions to the flu vaccine who got Guillain-Barré. I personally know for a fact, three people in my career I've taken care of who contracted Guillain-Barré from the flu vaccine. [I asked the hospital] So if I get that, are you going to take care of me? They would not answer that.”
Senator Hall commented:
“Thank you for coming here today. It took a lot of courage because I know that there are businesses out there that are looking to [engage in] retribution. I think we're going to probably hear from some that felt the heavy hand. But, I know, and I've talked to others. It's a shame that this is happening, but our government's worked real hard at instilling fear in people.”
Educated Mother: “Both of my [unvaccinated] children have incredible immune systems.”
Rebecca Rex, who has two healthy adult unvaccinated children testified in support of the bill. She said she educated herself about vaccines and diseases by doing her own research at the Medical Center Library in Houston after her son was born in 1993 with an unidentified health condition that was dismissed by her pediatrician as unimportant when she asked to delay vaccinations. She told the committee that her favorite book – the Epidemiology and Prevention of Preventable Diseases27 published by the Centers for Disease Control – is the one she urges all parents and legislators to read to make a truly informed vaccine benefit risk decision. She said:
“When you look through this [book], you’re going to find that the vast majority of diseases that we vaccinate for carry a death rate pretty equivalent to that of COVID right now – generally less than one percent across the board. You heard a doctor this morning speak to the fact that we are gifted with an immune system. Both of my [unvaccinated] children have incredible immune systems. They’re the healthiest people that you would want to meet.”
Educated Mother: “I don’t want to be treated as a second class citizen.”
Heather Aiken, who testified in support of the bill, said that she moved to Texas in search of “kindness, respect and, most importantly, medical freedom.” She explained that, “I and thousands of other parents had to flee states like California and New York, where they have taken away religious, conscientious and even some medical exemptions [to vaccination]. But after she moved to Texas, she said she was unable to find a pediatrician for her unvaccinated child:
“Many practices [in Texas] won’t take unvaccinated children. So instead we are at a family practice, which is fine because my children rarely get sick. But I can’t believe it’s legal for a pediatrician to discriminate and not give medical care to a child. It is beyond me that anyone thinks they have the right to make a medical decision for me, my child or anyone else’s child, especially with an experimental vaccine with zero liability for harm.”
“Children in Austin Independent School District will have to disclose their vaccination status, and this can lead to bullying from kids, teachers discriminating against children and kids not being able to participate in sports. I, personally, don’t want to be treated like a second class citizen, segregated or have to have communities torn apart over what should be private medical decisions protected by HIPAA laws.”
Researcher and Mother: “The more vaccines we add to the list, the more reactions we see.”
In support of the bill, researcher Virginia Young, testified that she thought vaccines were safe because “That is what we’re taught in school.” She said she has family members, who have suffered the adverse effects of vaccinations. “The more vaccines we add to the list, the more reactions we see, the illness and deaths we experience, such as I have in my family.”
“I felt certain that I, with a biomedical science degree and a graduate degree in health as well as [being] a healthcare provider and a researcher, certainly would know if there’s trouble with vaccinations. I come from a line of physicians, including a past president of the Texas Medical Association, and educators, and we believed there was a safety net. I found out the hard way. There is no such safety net and we are all in grave danger.”
Director of Education for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops: “We respectfully request you oppose SB 1669.”
On behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference on Bishops, Director of Education Lisette Allen testified in opposition to SB 1669. She said, “The Texas Bishops support school choice and religious liberty that respects the independence and autonomy of private and religious schools while fostering strong public school options. We are concerned with the provision of SB1699 that would prohibit a private school from requiring any immunizations as a condition of admission or attendance” and emphasized that Catholic schools adhere to the Texas Department of Health recommended childhood vaccination schedule.
"Parents and families choosing Catholic schooling know this enrollment policy beforehand and are free to choose another private school if they do not agree with it.”
She explained that church authorities reject the claim that Catholics have a moral duty to obey their conscience:
“The Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2020 statements rejected the claim that Catholics have a moral duty to refuse certain vaccines on the grounds of conscience and Catholic teaching. For example, they encourage Catholic parents to vaccinate their children against rubella and other serious diseases despite the illicit origin of the cells lines used in the manufacture of these vaccines.”
Senator Hall asked the witness, “What religious principle would be violated by you not being allowed to require people to be vaccinated in the Christian faith?”
She answered “In the Christian faith, I would have to get back to you because I don’t know.”
He followed up by requesting that she ask the Texas Bishops and the diocese the following questions and inform him either with a visit or in writing: “What is the Christian principle that is being violated?” and “Will they accept full responsibility for the damage to anyone who gets vaccinated?” She answered, “I sure will.”
Immunization Partnership: “This bill will endanger the public health.”
On behalf of herself and the Immunization partnership, Rekha Lakshmanan testified in opposition to SB1699. She identified herself as an employee of a non-profit organization that advocates for vaccination, the daughter of a 74 year old woman “who benefits from people being vaccinated” and “aunt to four incredible school aged children and a fellow Texan to the 29 million other Texans.” She said:
“I take the freedom to live free from worry about vaccine preventable diseases very seriously and I want that for everyone, including the people her today testifying in support of this bill because, at the end of the day I care about Texans…SB 1699 would reverse decades of thoughtful lawmaking that has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Texans…Texas grants the freedom to individuals to choose not to vaccinate. However, Texans, businesses, schools and nursing homes, to name a few, should also have the freedom to choose what’s best for them…These policies work and all Texans have rights.”
Senator Hall had the following exchange with the witness:
Senator Hall: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. But you said not vaccinating would be endangering public health. Do you think that vaccines are without any risk?
Rekha Lakshmanan: I think the science and the mountain of evidence is very clear that vaccines are extremely safe and they're effective.
Senator Hall: So, no one that gets vaccinated ever has an adverse reaction?
Rekha Lakshmanan: I'm not going to say that because obviously some people do have a reaction to it. However, if you look at the kinds of adverse reactions people tend to have, they tend to be filing mildly symptomatic.
Senator Hall: So, there really don't have any major reactions and very few of them, is that what you're saying? There are very few reactions and ones that they do are very insignificant?
Rekha Lakshmanan: Well, if you look at some of the common reactions people have when they get a vaccine, it typically is, your arm is sore, you may develop a little bit of a fever, a little bit of [inaudible 02:09:47] but those are the common side effects.
Senator Hall: Then that being the case, I imagine you wouldn't have any problem then in whoever is mandating, you take a medical procedure, that you perform that medical procedure, assuming the responsibility for any adverse effects, since it's so small?
Rekha Lakshmanan: Well, I think it's also just as a reminder, it's important that we have the choice and the freedom to decide if you choose not to vaccinate yourself. And I recall you mentioning that in an earlier hearing that you haven't had a vaccine in quite some time, that's your choice. And we have to respect that choice. But the details of this bill you're effectively removing the choice of individuals, and schools, and nursing homes, and employers to do what is right for the people that they serve and that they take care of. Is it the rights to only a certain group of people? Because we all deserve to have those rights. And on top of that, we have the ability to choose.
Senator Hall: People are free to run their business pretty much like they want to run it. But if someone gets damaged or hurt on their property or in their business, the people running that business are held responsible for the damages done to them, right? Walk into a business, you sit down on a chair, and it collapses on you, and you break something, that business owner is going to be responsible for repairing you [inaudible] broken on it. So, if that business owner operating his business is dictating that you have to take a medical procedure, then shouldn't they be responsible for any damage that they caused to your body by requiring you to take that medical procedure?
Rekha Lakshmanan: Sorry. I got bad hearing. Could you repeat that just last part of it? Sorry.
Senator Hall: Where did you leave off? Where did you miss? If you go into a business and you hurt yourself, you get damaged in there, you sit down into chair, it breaks, you fall and break an arm or leg. That business owner is going to be responsible for you having got hurt on their premises, because that's the way they ran their business. They chose to have that chair there. It was not adequate and you got hurt.
So, shouldn't that same business owner [who] is going to require you to have a vaccine as a function of working there, or whatever it is, they mandate that you have to take that medical procedure, which there's very little difference between the medical procedure. It's just a shot, but it's not even the difference in, maybe, having a hysterectomy or an appendix taken out - it's a medical procedure. But it goes wrong. Shouldn't that person who required you to do that, be responsible for what they're forcing you to do to yourself?
Rekha Lakshmanan: Senator Hall, I would respectfully ask the question that under the guise of this bill, which removes those businesses or entities from requiring vaccines, that I would say then - will the government were you responsible for paying all the illnesses, the cost associated with illnesses. Because an employer [may] have someone who got sick from a vaccine preventable disease, but yet under the details of this bill, the government should respond responsibility to pay for those illnesses.
Senator Hall: No, but vaccines are a special thing. Matter of fact, they are so special and so dangerous that the government has given immunity to the manufacturers of the product and the deliverers of the product from any damage. And yet you have something… I don't think you would buy an automobile if you were told [that] the manufacturer [of the] automobile has no responsibility for anything that happens in it. This is the only product out there in which the producer and the deliverer are immune from the damage it does to someone, yet a third party employer is going tell someone they have to take this in order to earn a living for their family.
Rekha Lakshmanan: Well, in fact-
Senator Hall: They should assume some responsibility, right?
Rekha Lakshmanan: Well, in fact, the United States has the vaccine court, which it's a no fault system that if someone claims that they have a vaccine injury, they can go to the vaccine court and they've... And it's no fault. In fact, it's-
Senator Hall: It's broken, ineffectual. Less than one percent of the people damaged by vaccines benefit from that system. But anyway, thank you very much for your testimony.
Mother and Wife of Pediatric Healthcare Provider: The state shouldn’t “force me to bear the consequences of other’s choices
Testifying in opposition to the bill, Lacey Waller, who is a mother and wife of a pediatric healthcare provider, argued that:
“I want to preserve my freedom in a world where I must live alongside fellow Texans who choose differently from me. I respect that their choices are allowed under the law. I simply want to make sure my choices for my family are protected too, I teach my children that choices have consequences. Sometimes people don’t like those consequences. That doesn’t mean the state should get to force me to bear the consequences of other’s choices. We have the freedom to choose the jobs we applied for just like the businesses have choices related to job requirements. The same goes for healthcare providers….this bill goes too far. It infringes on my liberty and that of millions of others in our state.”
Senator Hall responded that he was confused about why an employer not requiring vaccination as condition of employment infringes on the liberty of employees. He said:
“If you choose not to be vaccinated, where do you go to work? How do you feed your family? How does that leave you with liberty to choose? If someone is forcing you to take a medical procedure…this is not [like] wearing a pair of shoes or a hard hat or a vest. This is doing something that is not much different than having a hysterectomy. It’s not much different than having your appendix removed. It’s having a doctor or a business tell you, you have to permanently change your body. How does that match up with individual liberty?
She answered, “I don't know about all businesses and I am not aware of all businesses requiring vaccination. I do know that my husband is a pediatric healthcare provider. The fact that his employer requires vaccines for those that have direct contact with patients that are very high risk and at risk, and also carrying infectious diseases. That protects me and him, and our family.”
Senator Hall replied, “But that’s not a choice.” And she said:
“So he chooses to work there, and if he didn’t like that, he could choose to work somewhere else”
Wife of a Doctor Injured by Vaccines: “We must not allow California politics to take over here”
Testifying in support of the bill, Andrea Gothier described how her family moved from Michigan to Texas in 2019 and that her husband, a former doctor at Fort Hood Army Hospital, suffered a severe injury from a mandatory vaccination that three neuroimmunologists at Mayo Clinic have confirmed was the cause of his autoimmune and spinal damage. She said the IVIG therapy he depends upon to live costs $40,000 per month and has “completely shattered my family’s life.” She said:
“My children have seen codes called on their daddy. I was almost planning a funeral at the age of 29 for my husband. He was 34. My husband was healthy before that vaccine, my husband was a soccer player…his favorite thing to do was slalom water ski. Our life continues to be impacted every single month…no one should be forced into any vaccine, whether it be for work, school, play or immigration…do not limit the potential of the people by stripping away our freedom.”
She pointed out that her husband “does not qualify for a medical exemption in California” and added:
“Texas is the greatest state in America. We must not allow California politics to take over here. We must not allow our constitutional rights to ever be infringed upon. Any Texas senator who votes in favor of forced vaccines must be voted out and I will make it my mission.”
Aliyah: ‘This Isn’t an anti-vaccine or a pro-vaccine issue. This is quite simply a freedom issue.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Aliyah Matheson gave the following statement that was complimented by Senator Hall as putting “in a nutshell exactly what this is all about – personal liberty [and] making individual choices.”
“I'm representing myself and I'm here in support of SB 1669. I support this bill because, as an American, I believe freedom begins with bodily autonomy, my body or my child's body [does not] belong to pharmaceutical companies, businesses, schools, or the government. I've been labeled anti-vaccine because I want individualized medicine for myself and my family. I research and I make risk benefit analyses so I can make the best individualized medical decisions with my medical provider, for myself and for my children. When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, the research isn't complete. We are still participating in a clinical trial.
“I don't want or need to be convinced coerced or bribed by celebrities, athletes, or musicians, beer companies, donut makers, or at the direction of medical institutions to participate in a clinical trial for an experimental vaccine. This isn't an anti-vaccine or a pro-vaccine issue. This is quite simply a freedom issue.
“This bill protects individuals' rights to make complex medical decisions for oneself, without the fear of losing one's job or the ability to operate in society. Declining a medication doesn't make someone anti-medication, nor should it keep them from operating in society.
“Informed consent and mandates cannot co-exist. Many around the nation are watching what happens in Texas in response to COVID. You can set the tone for the nation and protect the people of Texas by voting yes on SB 1669.”
Marine Corps Veteran and Hospital Worker: “I stand losing my job come June because of my refusal to take the COVID vaccine.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Jerry Garcia is a father of two children with one on the autism spectrum, who has been employed with one of the biggest hospitals in Texas for seven years. He said:
“I've been employed with one of the biggest hospitals in Texas for about seven years and I stand losing my job come June, because of my refusal to take the COVID vaccine. I've served in the Marine Corps for 14 years and any veteran in the room knows a dog and pony show when they see one. Celebrities, politicians making it popular. It's just disingenuous. It's not right. It's not good. And I'm not here crusading against vaccines. I just would like the same consideration, the same respect as everybody else to choose whether or not I should take it.”
Senator Hall asked him is his hospital employer intended to accept responsibility of any vaccine adverse effects and Mr. Garcia replied:
“No sir. They won’t take any responsibility for that. There was an exemption…I put my exemption through – it got denied. As far as I know, everybody’s exemption go denied. It was a religious exemption and basically the explanation was that they have the correct facts and not the wrong facts….”
Senator Hall replied, “They understand what you believe better than you?” Mr. Garcia replied, “Correct. Better than what my pastor believes, better than what I….” Senator Hall finished the sentence, “…what you believe.”
Pediatrician Spokesperson for Texas Medical Association: “We are very lucky to that we have many vaccines that protect from numerous infectious diseases.”
Testifying on behalf of the Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society in opposition to the bill, Mai Duong, MD said:
“First and foremost, vaccines have been proven over and over again to be safe and effective. So we are very lucky that we have many vaccines that protect from numerous infectious diseases. And we have a system in place to get those vaccines into the arms of Texans….This bill is a giant step backwards and will cause vaccination rates to plummet, allowing the once suppressed disease to make a huge resurgence….which will most likely put all of our citizens at risk.”
Following is an exchange between the witness and Senator Hall:
Senator Hall: So, it sounds like you support forced mandatory vaccines.
Dr. Duong: Well, sir, there are recommendations and they’re requirements. There are no mandates. There is a system in place for people who will seek exemption, whether it's for a medical reason or for conscientious reasons. So there is already a system in place, sir. Nobody's making anybody do anything.
Senator Hall: But you already heard testimony from a number of people, and I'm sure there'll be some more in which employers have ignored their objection on religious or whatever reasons, even medical reasons. But you said that vaccines save lives. Do you also recognize that vaccine sometimes damage lives?
Dr. Duong: Absolutely, there's risks to everything we do and there are side effects of vaccine on the first [inaudible] with that, and I will counsel that with my patients.
Senator Hall: Okay. Is there any other medical procedure or anything else that you know of that is considered to be so high risk that the federal government grants total immunity to the manufacturer of the product and total immunity to those who deliver the product to people? Is there anything else that you know of?
Dr. Duong: I believe that our government is taking care of us and their duty is for public health. And the reason that we do have the... Sir, if you let me answer your question.
Senator Hall: That's not the question. You're not answering the question, ma'am.
Dr. Duong: All right. I don't understand your question. I'm trying to answer that.
Senator Hall: Okay. Do you know of any other product or medical procedure that is considered so risky by the federal government that they provide total immunity to the manufacturer of the product or to the people that deliver it?
Dr. Duong: There are no procedures, including vaccines that are that risky that will exempt anybody. The reason that we have the safety net in place, Sir, is that for public health reasons and for the public to have confidence in vaccines, we have developed this system. Vaccine is not a moneymaker. Manufacturers are getting out of that vaccine business. We are doing this to protect the public.
Senator Hall: Okay. One more question then that's fine. If an employer requires someone to have a vaccine, should the person who's requiring that vaccine assume responsibility for any adverse effect for that medical procedure that they're requiring them to take?
Dr. Duong: So I think that's a question for a lawyer to answer, and I'm a medical doctor. So, I'm afraid that you're asking the wrong person.
Mother and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: “Vaccine mandates go against my God given bodily autonomy and are nothing more than forced coercion.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Julie Harris, RN is a mother of three and has worked for 20 years as a nurse. She said she was told by her employer in January 2021 that if she did not take the COVID-19 vaccine, she “would be forced to voluntarily resign.” She said that as a Christian, vaccines are against her “deeply held beliefs” to keep her body “as a living temple” and is “commanded by the spirit to not dishonor” her body.
“Vaccine mandates go against my God given bodily autonomy and are nothing more than forced coercion. One third of my colleagues did not want to take the vaccine, yet I was the only person who was bold enough to submit a religious exemption as the philosophical exemption was not offered. Pregnant and nursing colleagues were unable to receive medical exemptions from their doctors. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. I have witnessed firsthand in medical practice and in family members, adverse reactions to vaccines. I have also witnessed adults be bullied by their employer and feel as if they do not have a choice in regards to what goes into their body. Vaccine mandates are simply wrong.”
Mother and Nurse Manager: “All of my exemptions were denied and employment was terminated on April 30.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Sarah Pica, RN, who is a mother of five and nurse manager at Houston Methodist Hospital described how she and her team worked long hours away from their families during the COVID pandemic “fighting an enemy that we cannot see and did not know how to overcome at the beginning,” putting others’ needs before their own on a daily basis. She said that, In January, staff at Houston Methodist were encouraged to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and “$500 was paid to every employee who was vaccinated,” but that “messaging took a sharp turn in April.” She explained:
“The vaccine was no longer optional, but required to keep your job. Beginning with hospital leadership, anyone who did not receive the COVID vaccine, which is for emergency use only, was suspended for two weeks and terminated if they remained unvaccinated. I tested positive for COVID in December. I requested to have my antibodies drawn to demonstrate natural immunity provided after recovery from an illness. My request was denied. I submitted medical and religious exemptions to receiving the vaccine. All of my exemptions were denied by the hospital panel and employment was terminated on April 30th.
She asked, “What right does one have to determine if another’s religious reason is valid or not?” and added “Our country was founded as one nation under God. No man has the right to determine what another must do to, or with, their body.” She said:
“Employers are bullying and oppressing us while the world watches the injustice, but does nothing. Houston Methodist is terminating anyone who declines or is unable to receive the vaccine. Now they're informing staff, they have until June 7th to receive the vaccine or suffer the same fate. Their behavior is appalling…Please vote, yes, on SB 1669.”
Senator Hall asked her “So everyone who is getting vaccinated [who] has an adverse effect, it’s on them? They have to cover all the medical expenses?”
She answered, “Correct. They [have] given no information to any staff about how they will take any responsibility for anything that happens to them adversely….it’s simply if they want to keep their job, they have to get vaccinated. And if they are not able to or decline vaccination, they will be terminated.”
Former Director of Corporate Risks: “I was terminated…my civil rights and liberties have been trampled on.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Bob Nevens, talked about how he had been the Director of Corporate Risks for Houston Methodist Hospital System before being terminated on Apr. 29, 2021 “after refusing to adhere to their brand new mandatory COVID vaccine policy.” He explained how he was not against vaccines, simply against being forced to take an unapproved experimental vaccine the hospital leadership continues to maintain “are 100 percent safe.” He said:
“My position was not clinical. I never interacted with patients and because of COVID, I've worked from home effectively for the last year. It's heartbreaking to have this happen to me. My civil rights and liberties have been trampled on. I've been retaliated and discriminated against for choosing personal conviction and personal health choices over complying with this brand new vaccine policy. That is an obvious violation of federal laws in the constitution. I'm not against vaccines by any stretch, just ones that are experimental, unapproved, and where the providers, hospitals, and manufacturers are shielded from liability.”
He said that the hospital leadership continues to say, “the vaccines are 100 percent safe.” He said that, “like millions of Americans, all I wanted to do was to wait until the vaccines are licensed and approved by the FDA and make a well-informed scientific based decision. I prayed for a compromise but the organization was unwilling to grant an extended time or accommodate a 10 year high-performing employee.”
“I believe in what I am doing. I believe in personal freedoms. And I’ve fallen on this sword in hopes that it will help others [who] could soon face this horrible life-changing anxiety-filled decisions. Texas needs you, America needs you. Please vote yes for SB1669.”
Teaching Hospitals of Texas President and CEO: “Keeping patients, employees and the broader community safe is fundamental to a hospital’s core mission.”
Testifying in opposition to the bill, the President and CEO of Teaching Hospitals of Texas (THOT) Maureen Milligan said that, “for public safety and to ensure safety and health of patients, hospitals must reserve the freedom and the right to protect patients by requiring the staff and healthcare providers to be vaccinated.” She emphasized that patients with cancer, transplant patients and other immunocompromised persons in neonatal infant care units and intensive care units in hospitals are protected when all employees are vaccinated. She said:
“I think all these patients rightly deserve to be kept as safe as possible. None of them choose to be in a hospital and they can’t opt out of being in the hospital for fear of what might happen to them, so employers do and can require of employees things that are essential and fundamental to the heart of their jobs.“
Following is an exchange that Senator Hall had with this witness:
Senator Hall: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Being in the business, I'm sure you're well aware that vaccines are a high risk to the person getting it. I mean, it's so high risk that it's the only product out there that the government provides immunity to the manufacturer and to the deliverer... So that being the case, as an employer, why should you not assume the responsibility for any adverse effect for something you're going to require somebody to do to their body that's irreversible, permanent and irreversible. So why shouldn't the hospital [say], "Yes it's a requirement, we understand what you're saying, but we will take care of you if there's a problem."
Maureen Milligan: Yeah, so just a couple of points. I'm not sure, I don't know the facts behind the immunity, if the decision was made because there was a perception that it is so high risk, or the decision was made to really support getting this out for COVID, which my understanding is about almost 600,000 people have died from, so I think that kind of public health risk is really…
Senator Hall: I'm not talking about that risk, I'm talking about to the employee that you're now going to require to do this medical procedure that permanently changes their body.
Maureen Milligan: Yeah.
Senator Hall: You're going to require that of them, and they have no recourse to [sue] the manufacturer of that product, or to whoever puts it in their body. So if you're requiring them to do that, why should you not be responsible for any adverse effect? It's the only product out there that has that kind of immunity.
Maureen Milligan: Here's what I would say, Senator Hall, I've heard this conversation. I would point to the position that hospitals are in, having to weigh the rights of their employees and the beliefs of their employees, to their fundamental commitment to ensure the safety of their patients, many of whom, again, don't have a choice to be there. I know that employees make a very challenging decision when they have to choose and I've heard the stories. So it's not easy but, on the other hand, the hospitals have the responsibility to ensure they're not putting people at risk. So they face liability, I think, also from patients who say, "Why did you have somebody who wasn't vaccinated take care of me and put me at risk and actually give me COVID?"
Senator Hall: I understand that, that's not the question I ask. Why shouldn't the hospital assume responsibility for what happens to that employee by taking that injection that the hospital is forcing them to take?
Maureen Milligan: Well, to that I'm going to say this, which you're not going to like, but I'm going to say there are certain legal requirements that I'm not expert at about immunity and my liability. I'm not your best expert on that.
Senator Hall: Okay, thank you very much.
Advocacy Chair for Texas School Nurses Organization: “For the most part people will comply with the laws as they are written, laws that are created to protect the greatest number of people.”
Speaking in opposition to the bill, Becca Harkleroad, Advocacy Chair for the Texas School Nurses Association, said that she recognized that many witnesses were testifying about COVID vaccine mandates but that, “it is important to also be aware that this bill would eliminate all school immunization requirements.” She said:
“Until I became a school nurse, it never occurred to me that vaccines could be controversial. Vaccinating your children is as much a part of taking care of their health as teaching them to wash their hands, brush their teeth, eat healthy food and get good sleep. What we see in our society is that for the most part people will comply with the laws as they are written, laws that are created to protect the greatest number of people. In the case of immunization laws, that protection is achieved by creating herd immunity. That is why everyone who can be vaccinated, should be, so that we can protect those who are too young or medically fragile to receive their vaccines.”
Meningitis Survivor: “I’m testifying against this bill because I feel like we are potentially putting a lot of students at risk.”
Having survived serious complications of meningitis, which required all of her fingers and both of her knees to be amputated below the knee when she was a college student in 2008, Jamie Martin testified in opposition to the bill. She said :
“With meningitis you can typically die within 24 to 48 hours. Totally fine one day, wondering if you’re going to live the next, and that’s definitely what happened to me and I didn’t leave the hospital for seven months. And when I left, I was in a wheelchair…I’m testifying against this bill because I feel like we are potentially putting a lot of students at risk.”
COVID-19 Survivor: “The last thing we need is another excuse to judge and hate our neighbor”
Testifying in support of the bill, Amber Hannigan talked about how she has autoimmune disease, which runs in her family, and how one-size-fits-all vaccine policies puts her and her family at risk for further health deterioration. She said that she and her family had COVID in December 2020 and “we all survived, we’re all healthy and we’re better off for it. Whereas if we were to get the COVID vaccination, who’s to say autoimmune disease wouldn’t run rampant throughout my children’s lives and my life.” She said:
“America was built on allowing individuals their God-given freedom to choose how to live their lives and, today, I'm exercising my right to freedom of speech to express that my right to make knowledgeable decisions about my own health and the health of my family is a right that deserves protecting, as is the right to be treated equally and fairly and not discriminated against because of my health situation and, therefore, my choice whether or not to receive the COVID vaccine. It is also worth mentioning that with all the other social issues dividing our nation these days, the last thing we need is another excuse to judge and hate our neighbor, especially [over] a virus that has a 99.9% survival rate.”
President of Texas Private Schools Association: “This bill is a dramatic step towards stripping the independent schools of their way of doing business.”
Testifying against the bill, Leanne Messer, President of Texas Private Schools Association, said that there are about 900 private accredited non-profit schools in the state and that her association represents small to large accredited independent schools with “a vast array of educational models, including Montessori, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Waldorf, Baptist, and special needs schools. She said what all the schools have in common is a “deep commitment to best practices in teaching and learning, and freedom from government regulation in achieving the missions of each individual community.” She said:
“I’m testifying in opposition to this bill because it is a dramatic step towards stripping independent schools of their way of doing business…I’m here not to be for vaccines or against vaccines. I’m here asking that private accredited non-profit schools in the State of Texas continue to have the flexibility and independence to craft our policies.”
Spokesman for Texas Hospital Association and Texas Public Health Coalition: “This bill would impose an inflexible all encompassing one-size-fits-all approach prohibiting vaccine mandates.”
Testfiying in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Public Health Coalition, Steve Wohleb said, “This bill would prohibit the use of what may be the most effective tool a hospital has available to it the next time the healthcare system is threatened with collapse by an out of control disease. He said:
“Just as we all as individuals must decide for ourselves what the best strategy is for staying healthy, hospitals should have the ability to adopt policies that are best suited to serve the needs and circumstances of their patients, their workforce, their communities, and the public health environment they operate in... yet this bill would impose an inflexible all encompassing one size fits all approach, prohibiting vaccine mandates.”
Upon questioning by Senator Hall about the hospital assuming liability for any harm to an employee required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, Mr. Wohleb said that, “there is compensation available, both for this vaccine, as well as any FDA approved vaccine, and those programs work, in my experience as an attorney, my personal experience as an attorney, those programs work. So I think that's one point that needs to be made and emphasize it's not the case that there is no recourse for injuries caused by this vaccine, or any other vaccine.”
Following is the final exchange between Senator Hall and Mr. Wohleb:
Senator Hall: Okay, just an easy yes or no question. Should not the hospital that's requiring this be done assume the responsibility for any adverse effect to the person that they're requiring it to be done to?
Steve Wohleb: In my judgment, Senator, no, they shouldn't. I don't think they should be put in the position of making the judgment and making the choice between protecting their patients and their workforce, and incurring this legal responsibility.
Hospital Safety Representative: ‘I have seen some employees ridicule those who have taken a stance of not taking the vaccine…I was told I will lose my job for not taking the vaccine.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Charles Daniel Varghese described how he has worked for 12 years at a Houston hospital in environmental health and safety as a safety representative managing chemical safety data sheets within the hospital. He said that during the pandemic, his department “worked tirelessly to provide mask fit tests for doctors and nurses who needed them.” He said:
“The reason I'm here is to state that the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies implemented by Houston hospital created a hostile work environment for minorities in respect to their beliefs. I have seen some employees ridicule those who have taken a stance of not taking the vaccine. This policy immediately created a division between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated employees, even to the point to which the Houston hospital will not allow unvaccinated employees into the gyms to workout. Recently, I was told that I will lose my job for not taking the vaccine…”
He said the hospital policy “created a lot of unneeded stress and anxiety for me and my family. I’m not against vaccines but it should be a person’s choice.” He said:
“A few weeks ago, I applied for a religious exemption and was denied my religious rights, a right of refusal. This means that my religious exemption was meaningless. I tried to appeal the decision with the committee, but it fell on deaf ears. I then appealed this to human resources and was rejected once again. I was told by the employee health and human resources to apply again, and currently, await to be approved or denied by the same committee that denied me [the] first time.”
Patient Care Assistant: “I had my physician sign my form for exemption for medical. I turned it in and was denied on the same day, without an explanation.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Houston Methodist Hospital patient care assistant Alison Sasharee Entu described how she has “upheld integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence” through her years of employment” and was compliant with all COVID protocols while working with COVID patients but has now been told that “if I do not pick one of the three COVID vaccines available, I will be terminated.” After being informed by her doctor that exemptions are available, she described what happened when she filed one. She said:
“I had my physician sign my form of exemption for medical. I turned it in and was denied on the same day, without an explanation. I called employee health to ask how to appeal this denied exemption and was denied a meeting with the board, who decided that my exemption was not of value. My concern is my health and mandating this vaccine will cost me my job. My work environment since announcing vaccine mandate, date of June 7th, has been centered all around who has not had the vaccine. Emails are being sent. Management will pull you aside and ask you, "What are you going to do? What are your plans? We need to know before June 7th."
Ultrasound Technologist: “I don’t want to be one of those healthy ones [who] has some kind of reaction and then I’m no longer there for my kids, for my husband.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Latricia Blank said as a Houston Methodist hospital employee she was joining other employees at the hearing “to share our own personal experience and stand up for our rights and the rights of others [who cannot be here]. She said:
“My religious exemption was denied. I was emailed yesterday saying it will have no further consideration. I have lost my job. I am terrified to get the vaccine. I don't want to be one of those healthy ones [who] has some kind of reaction and then I'm no longer here for my kids, for my husband.”
She explained that she has been on the front lines since the COVID pandemic began and has been working directly with patients without getting sick. She said:
“I've been working directly with the patients doing their ultrasounds. None of us have ever gotten sick. We've done the personal PPE, hand-washing, the normal things that we're taught growing up keeps you healthy. I've heard that we are a minority. We are not. That number is skewed. Those [who] have been bullied to take the vaccine versus losing their jobs are now in those numbers that have agreed, when they haven't. And that's not fair.”
Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr: “ If this bill passes we’re actually mandating the business to have to keep those [employees] that don’t want to be vaccinated.”
At this point in the hearing, committee member Senator Lucio asked Senator Hall a series of questions about the bill to clarify his understanding of it. Senator Lucio said he missed some of the testimony and summarized what he understood to be the crux of the disagreement between those who support and oppose the bill. He said:
“So what I am hearing right now is that certain employees have been asked to take the vaccine where they work, the hospital or the establishment where they work. It could be a restaurant, it doesn't have to be a hospital, has decided that's what they want - to see their employees vaccinated or else they're not going to work there. They might feel they get the people [who] come in there, might get sick if you're sick, if you catch it tomorrow and bring it to your place of work... is that what I'm listening to here? … if this bill passes, we’re actually mandating the business to have to keep those (employees] that don’t want to be vaccinated.”
Senator Hall replied:
“Yes Senator Lucio. And it's a little bit different than a requirement that you have, say a dress code, or you have to wear a hard hat for safety in the office. What we're dealing with here is a requirement that tells you, the employee, that you've got to take a medical procedure that's irreversible. And [if] there is an adverse reaction to it, you're on your own. There will be no support medically, financially or whatever it is, as a result of it. And so it's a little bit different than a requirement that you do something on a job, because it is something [for which] there is no recourse. The manufacturer of the vaccine has total immunity. And the administrator of the vaccine has total immunity. You as a recipient of it are totally responsible for any adverse reaction.”
Senator Lucio pointed out that “obviously there’s a requirement that if you want to work there, you’re going to have to be vaccinated for healthcare reasons. And that’s the conflict. I understand your side. But we have to also look at the position the other side has stated because, quite frankly, they both have merits is what I am trying to say….They’re trying to stop the spread of COVID is all I’m saying. I’m not trying to speak ill of what you’re trying to accomplish. No, there’s another side that makes sense, a lot of sense…I don’t want the public to stay away from my restaurant, I want them to come in.”
Senator Hall responded:
“I think what we got into is that the benefit of the vaccine is so overrated in an environment in which we have, achieved herd immunity here, we did before the vaccine had hardly vaccinated 15% of the population. And so the vaccine is being touted as some kind of miracle drug that is stopping this COVID, where it isn't. And that's where we have a disconnect on this thing, the overreaction to it. There is a collision between individual rights and a business's rights. And that's where we have different views, my view is our first job is to protect individual liberty, individual rights.”
Later in the back and forth exchange between the two committee members, Senator Hall said “We’ve had a string of people in here that have kids [who] are damaged. We have people in here that were damaged [by vaccines]. You missed the testimony.”
Senator Lucio said, “I’ve never seen anybody damaged. I’ve never seen anybody die.”
Senator Hall replied “But you see, that is the problem. That’s what we’re faced with, these vaccines have a risk to people damaging them…” and then he asked “So where does a person go to earn a living when all the businesses require the vaccine in their field of work? I understand if it was only one business [that] was doing it, I’d say the free market will take care of that business…but we get to a point where all the businesses [are doing it].”
The two senators eventually agreed to talk to each other further after the hearing about their different points of view.
Hospital Nurse: “They say we are putting ourselves before our patient’s safety.”
A registered nurse with Houston Methodist, Ashton Hanley, RN testified in support of the bill, saying that after working there for four years, she has been told she will be terminated if she is not fully vaccinated by June 7. She said:
“I have personally reached out with colleagues and met with the CEO of Baytown Methodist, addressed my concerns and advocate for other employees who feel the same as I do. I am not against the vaccine and I believe it is an individual's personal choice. I am just not comfortable getting it at this time due to it being so new, not FDA approved, and with questions of long-term effects - it is currently unknown.”
She explained that the hospital is not giving employees a choice and that she feels bullied and threatened. She said:
“They keep saying we have a choice, but I don’t have a choice. Either I get the vaccine or I’ll lose my job. This is unethical and I feel bullied and threatened. They say we are putting ourselves before our patient’s safety. I have been exposed and working on the frontline for the past year, putting all my patients needs and concerns before my own. But I’m being selfish for not getting the vaccine?”
She described patients who have been vaccinated and gotten COVID and other patients who have died after getting vaccinated. She said:
“I refuse to be forced to get a vaccine I just don't know enough about yet. As a matter of fact, I don't think anybody really knows. It's too early to know the long-term effects that we haven't had time for the long-term evidence. And they say the benefit outweighs the risk, but I'm not jeopardizing my health, my family. The benefit does not outweigh the risk… I recently had a patient that…. the patient was vaccinated in March, fully vaccinated, and he is currently in the hospital with COVID [and} we have patients dying after getting the COVID vaccine. “
Senator Lucio questioned her about finding employment at another business and she said that she had recently purchased a home to be near the hospital where she thought she would retire but has been job searching and just got offered a job. Senator Lucio replied, “That’s the point that I really want to make. There are businesses, there are clinics or doctor’s offices or maybe even hospitals…where there are opportunities to get a job….You have rights, they have rights. That’s the issue here that we’re dealing with.”
She pointed out that, “this isn’t FDA approved. How can the hospital mandate something so soon? A year from now, two years from now, if we choose. But it’s so soon to fire us….It’s too soon.”
Senator Hall added, “The main point there that some people miss is this is an experimental drug. It’s not FDA approved. It did not go through the normal trial process, it bypassed some of the key parts of it…so this is not like any other vaccine out there.”
Private Citizen: “This issue is extremely urgent as it is a slippery slope from strong recommendations from employers now to mandates across all industries…”
Testifying as a private citizen in support of the bill, Thomas Novlan said he has close family and friends, including educators and first responders who have enthusiastically chosen to be vaccinated and also those who can’t receive the vaccine for medical reasons. He said:
“No one should ever be explicitly or implicitly forced or coerced to be vaccinated or [to] disclose their private health information whether for employment, travel to a school or events, or to simply go about life. Vaccine passports are not only discriminatory towards those for whom legitimate reasons are not vaccinated [but] by creating a two-tier society. They're not justified from a public health perspective since they do not acknowledge the risk of rare but potentially life-threatening vaccine side effects for some, the long term unknowns of natural or vaccine acquired immunity and, since nothing is a hundred percent effective no matter what those with the financial interests and no liability say, it is clear from the data that a hundred percent of the adoption of vaccines is not required for [herd] immunity. It doesn't matter if it's a public or private entity which is doing the coercion or discrimination, it sets a dangerous precedent that will only further drive stigmatization of those with medical conditions, political polarization, mistrust of government and tech companies, and skepticism of science and public health “
Texas Right to Know: “This is new technology. They are altering our cells.”
Testifying on behalf of Texas Right to Know in support of the bill, Sheila Hemphill pointed out that the Texas health department at a December 2020 pubic hearing on COVID stated:
“In Texas, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is completely voluntary and we want to make sure everyone knows that because it’s licensed under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and cannot be mandated by anyone…Emergency Use Authorization is not FDA approval. That’s why they’re using social media to market it. You cannot advertise a drug for claims if it’s not FDA approved. On top of this, in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that vaccines are ‘unavoidably unsafe.’”28
She talked about the fact that the mRNA COVID vaccines are using an experimental technology that has never been used before to produce vaccines.29 She said that risks are unknown:30
"These are not vaccines like you've heard about… This is new technology. They are altering our cells... they are literally engineering our cells…. These are not vaccines as we've always known them. This is not taking a drug anymore and getting [it] out of your system. Once you have had it, you are having this gene modification in your system, and it does replicate. It goes on and on. They really don't know how long it goes on. So the moral of this story is, there is so much we don't know. There has been no long-term testing. How can we mandate something like this to put people at risk?”
Senator Hall questioned her about PCR tests used to demonstrate efficacy of the COVID vaccines. He stated that PCR tests have been “the cornerstone of what’s been used for testing [but] it’s not what we’ve been using here in the capital.”
She explained that the PCR test protocols that have been used to detect whether a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2 have not been accurate because the cycle thresholds for detection have been too high. 31 She said:
“PCR testing detects DNA. In fact, when this first started, the number of cycles that you run these materials through picks up little minute particulates of the genome. The coronavirus is part of the cold virus. So if you strain it out small enough, you're going to find presence of coronavirus in everybody. And so therefore just recently, actually after the election and after some of these vaccines started coming in, the WHO changed the number of cycles down from 40 to 30. So when Pfizer states that they're [at] 95% efficacy, they're using PCR testing to make that evaluation [and] not how many antibodies are being stimulated, not what kind of T-cell it's response has. They are doing PCR testing. It's the great tool wrong for this use.”
Senator Hall replied, “And I believe Florida is even lower in their cycle…haven’t they lowered their cycles also?”
She responded, “I’m not familiar. The last I heard is WHO was even [inaudible]. Now, what does that mean? That means what was picking up this vast amount of COVID positive patients was elevated. When they calibrate to an accurate number of cycles, the numbers have gone down. Now, guess who’s getting credit for that number of negative tests or lack of positive tests? The vaccines.”
Twin Sister of a Nurse: “Have people lost their ability to critically think?”
Testifying in support of the bill, Donna Stallone said she came to the hearing on behalf of herself, her family and “many others who are afraid to speak out.” She expressed concern about testimony she heard from nurses and first responders, who are being forced to get vaccinated. She said:
“I have listened to testimony today and I find it absolutely astonishing that in one moment we can raise our nurses and first responders up as heroes. And they go from hero to zero in one second because they don't want to get a shot. They have survived and been on the front lines with masks and all of the other protocols to this point. And now that we have a vaccine, now you can't wait until the statistics come ...there's no science… How does this happen? Have people lost their ability to critically think? You're willing to save your patient in the hospital at the risk of the one who's been there all along from the beginning.”
“I find it disgusting that we're at this point, [where] we have another reason to be divided. I feel like I have been in a PSYOPs project. Where the evil forces, whatever they are behind it, have more to gain by pitting us against each other. And I'm sick of it. I support this bill because I believe in liberty and the right for people to choose what's right for them.”
Physical Therapist: “I have been in TB rooms. I have been in high infectious rooms. We’ve never gotten it. It’s never been spread to another patient and we have used standard PPE.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Theresa Thomas talked about being astounded that people are not being guided by accurate information about COVID and COVID vaccines because “for some reason, we don’t want to get into the biology” and added:
“I protected patients for 20 years. I have been in TB rooms. I have been in high infectious rooms. We've never gotten it. It's never been spread to another patient and we have used standard PPE. But if you allow this hospital to do it [mandate COVID vaccine], it will be a domino effect.”
Senator Lucio: “I have nieces and nephews in the healthcare industry and I certainly don’t want them to be harassed or bullied or anything else.”
Senator Lucio complimented the witness on her testimony and expressed support for education and religious rights and workers’ rights. He said:
“I really enjoyed your testimony and wanting to go in education as well. I was asking questions, that's all, of where we draw the line for the good of all. I don't like anyone to be forced to do anything that they shouldn't have to - no. I believe in religious rights, I believe in workers' rights. Absolutely. Just want to learn more about where we're going with this issue, that's all. I don't want anyone to misunderstand my line of questioning. I certainly appreciate the emotion, the passion that people have, because they're directly affected and, you're right, like this wonderful lady that testified before you… I have nieces and nephews [who] are in the healthcare industry and I certainly don't want them to be harassed or bullied or anything else. I want everyone to be taken care of and I want everybody healthy.”
Later, Senator Lucio added:
“And the last thing I want, and people [who] know me on the Senate floor know that I don’t want anybody losing their job because mortgage payments, car payments, the family, all these things are most important. The last thing I want is anyone losing their job. That’s so sacred when it comes to maintaining the household for your family. So I want you all to know that really concerns me. And I hope we can find some middle ground where everybody can be somewhat satisfied and get along and we can continue to see life go on as normal as we can have, even after this COVID-19.”
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons: “These vaccines are actually experimental gene interventions. The public needs to know this.”
Testifying in support of the bill, the immediate past President of the Texas chapter of the American Association of American Physicians and Surgeons Sheila Page, DO said that the COVID vaccine “is not a vaccine” and is currently classified as an “emergency use” product, which means that individuals must be offered the option to accept or refuse it.32 She stated that, “as a form of coercion, mandating any medical intervention is a violation of the Nuremberg Code.33 It requires that individuals be able to exercise a power of choice without intervention of any element of force.”
Dr. Paige expressed concern about the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety. She said:
“These vaccines are actually experimental gene interventions. The public needs to know this…You need to know that the safety in children and high-risk adults is not known for this injection. It wasn't studied. The only people studied were healthy adults at low risk of infection. The study that says it's effective means really very little…Prior infection with COVID provides immunity, and those people who are previously infected may actually be at higher risk of an adverse event after being injected with mRNA [COVID-19 vaccine] because it causes them to produce the spike protein which will be implanted in their body, and they already have antibodies and will have a hyper immune response. Anytime a mandate is imposed you eliminate liability for the manufacturer. They don’t have to do anything to improve it, make it better.”
Under questioning, Dr. Paige also commented that, in general, there is an emphasis on vaccination over therapeutics in public health policy today, She said, “I think that it’s a real narrow perspective to think that the only way we can promote human health is through these kinds of vaccines or injections.” She asked:
“Should we be using therapeutics that we can use safely [that] we already know a lot about? We’re not changing anyone’s DNA. We’re using our God given immunity plus other therapeutics that we have available, they’re safe to [use to] treat early, and maybe even prevent disease…I think we forget how beautifully our bodies are designed. The vaccines really bypass your natural immunity, which is a whole lot better because the T-cell immunity – that’s your primary virus slayer - and they [T-cells] have long term memory.”
Polysomnographic Sleep Technologist: “My family was essentially fired from an Austin based medical practice in 2014.”
Testifying in support of the bill as a wife and mother and healthcare professional, Ashley Birkinhoff talked about how, as a registered polysomnographic sleep technologist, she understands how important sleep can be for the immune system. She related how she had developed a “really trusting relationship” with a pediatrician shortly after her first son was born but that, just before his fifth birthday, she received “a letter in the mail stating that the group’s medical policy had changed and he would be required to be updated on all delayed vaccinations, which meant her son would be given multiple doses of vaccines within a six-month period.”
“What we’re talking about today is discrimination…My first experience with that was when my family was essentially fired from an Austin-based medical practice in 2014…Because we didn’t submit to numerous multi-dose injections within a six-month period, we could no longer be seen or cared for.”
She recalled that she has also been threatened in the work place for refusing to get an annual flu shot. She said:
“I also personally in my experience as a health care professional have faced threats, bullying and intimidation when it comes to the annual influenza vaccination. Even last year in January of 2020, just before the COVID thing happened, I recall my manager trying to coerce me to take the flu vaccine because he exaggerated how awful it would be for me to have to wear a mask during my shifts at the hospital, which seems so ironic now.”
She added that medical care and employment should not be taken away because of a medical choice that an individual makes. She said:
“I know that it's so important to my family and to a lot of Texans and families that these individual liberties of informed consent be upheld. Children should be allowed medical care regardless of their status. Adults should be allowed to work regardless of their medical choices. We've been through this... these are drugs and they can cause harm and, because of that harm, there has to be an individual choice.”
Private Citizen: “Who’s foot is being held to the fire in the event of a damage? Because all I’m hearing are people dancing and even running from this answer.”
Testifying in support of the bill, Ajua Mason thanked Senator Bob Hall “for standing up for the constitution and for freedom. It’s very comforting to know that there is someone in such a position as yourself to fight for our liberty on behalf of we, the people, because that is what this is about. This is about liberty.”
“I came all the way from Dallas, Texas on behalf of myself, hundreds, thousands, even 10 thousands of people who couldn't be here. I'm here standing in the gap for them and for their freedom of choice against this experimental non-licensed injection… We strongly, a thousand to the 10th power, we strongly support this bill. This bill would be an answer to prayer.”
Then she asked people who oppose the bill a question. She said:
“I have a serious question for the opposers of this bill. Who's foot is held to the fire in the event of a damage? Because all I'm hearing are people dancing and even running from this answer. This is crimes against humanity. Any opposition against this bill is unconstitutional. It's appalling. And in my opinion, it's demonic. Let me leave you with this, where there is a risk, there must be a choice.”
Advocates for Nursing: “The termination of nurses is actually creating unsafe staffing situations today…There’s already a national shortage of nurses… and now you’re trying to mandate a vaccination.”
Testifying in support of the bill on behalf of Advocates of Nursing, critical care nurse Maggie Ortiz, RN, who is also president of Advocates of Nursing, expressed concerns about “mandating vaccinations, what [it] is [doing] and will continue to do to the nursing profession.” She added that, “This isn’t about vaccinations. This is about informed consent and the right for the patient and the medical practitioner, the nurse, to make that decision - especially as it pertains to a drug that is not FDA approved…”
She also noted that there is a shortage of nurses and that terminating nurses right now because they refuse to get a COVID vaccine just makes the situation worse. She said:
“The termination of nurses is actually creating unsafe staffing situations today. If one of you leaves here today and gets in a car accident and you need nursing care and you’re terminating these nurses, who will take care of you? There’s already a national shortage of nurses. COVID obviously has leveled us as well. And now you’re trying to mandate a vaccination. I have nurses, already four of them, who will be terminated in a long-term care facility and they don’t have safe staffing.”
Texas Beekeeper: ”We stay in good shape. We work out hard. We’re not afraid of this thing. We don’t live in fear…”
Testifying in support of the bill, Doug Hinds, a 67 year old retiree and farmer living on a compound with eight family members where he is a chicken farmer and beekeeper, talked about how he and his family have gathered around the table every night to eat dinner during the pandemic. He said:
“We stay together, we pray together and we live together…one of us has had an issue [but] we never separated anybody. We rely on our God-given vaccine system that we have engendered with our God-given vaccine immunities. We stay in good shape. We work out hard. We’re not afraid of this thing. We don’t live in fear and we just live our lives the way we do.”
He expressed astonishment about the testimony he heard at the hearing. He said:
“I'm astounded that this bill is even necessary because this bill is so important to get us God given freedoms and liberties that have been trampled on for the last 15 months on a state, county, city and national level. We need to reverse all this. I highly recommend we do it as pronto as possible. The things we've heard today are just astounding to me. The damage this vaccine passport folly would cause. We need to stop it. We need to stop it now. We need to add fines for those who insist upon such things, as they're doing in Florida. We need to do it right away.“
After the last person testified, Committee Chair Hughes adjourned the hearing, thanking “all the witnesses and all those [who] worked hard to get the hearing set as we work through this and the bill will be left pending at this time.”
NVIC Urges Texans to Contact Their State Legislators Immediately
After the May 6 hearing, the bill stalled in the Senate State Affairs Committee and, on May 17, Dawn and the Advocacy Portal staff issued an Action Alert for residents of the state of Texas through the NVIC Advocacy Portal informing them that a Committee Substitute to SB1669 is now being offered. The substitute bill would limit the prohibition of vaccine mandates to COVID-19 vaccines and would include businesses, as well as schools and other entities in the state of Texas.
NVIC supports the substitute bill and is encouraging Texas residents to contact five senators on the Senate State Affairs Committee, as well as their own senator and representative, the Texas Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House and Governor to support the SB1669 substitute bill.
Recently, Delta Airlines 34 and Amazon 35 announced that all employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Select businesses in Texas have also announced that customers entering their stores either have to show proof of vaccination or wear a mask. 36 NVIC’s rallying cry for passage of the substitute for SB1669 is “No forced vaccinations. No vaccine passports. No exceptions!”
Register and login to the free NVIC Advocacy Portal often to check for updates to the status of the bill.
The Texas legislative session ends on Monday, May 31 and will not reconvene until January 2023.
Click the plus sign at the bottom of this page to view and/or post comments on our commentary.
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