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A new Republican bill would bar N.H. schools from requiring COVID vaccines

N.H. State House
Allegra Boverman

Supporters of a Republican-sponsored bill to bar schools and child care facilities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines stressed parental rights and highlighted far-fetched claims of adverse medical outcomes – many distant from the proposal at hand – before a state Senate committee Thursday.

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“One of the things that is really holy to me and to a host of people in New Hampshire, is their children, and the blood of their children,” Republican Senator Kevin Avard of Nashua, told colleagues.

“If they want to vaccinate their child, that’s their decision,” he continued. “If they don’t want to vaccinate their child, that’s their decision.”

No school district in the state now requires vaccination for COVID-19. A bill filed by Democrats would add COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations.

But Avard and others stressed that absent years of study on the effects of COVID vaccines, schools need to be blocked from even considering a mandate..

“Kids are not lab rats,” Kelley Potenza, a prominent anti-COVID vaccine activist, told lawmakers.

Both the New Hampshire Hospital Association and the state Medical Society oppose the bill.

“It’s important that schools have all of the resources at their disposal to keep their students and staff safe,” Michael Padmore of the New Hampshire Medical Society said.

Paula Minnehan of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, meanwhile, noted that as of Wednesday, 554 people were in local hospitals due to COVID; most, Minnehan added, were unvaccinated.

“That is putting a tremendous strain on our hospitals right now,” she said.

But backers of banning school vaccine mandates countered with their own, often more speculative or sensational, tales of medical strain.

Londonderry Republican Rep. Al Baldasaro, cited the fertility of his 29-year old daughter.

“She’s talked with friends who have got the vaccination, and they have menstrual issues and other stuff, '' Baldasaro testified. “She wants her kids to be able to have kids.”

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines threaten fertility. Research shows vaccination could cause small, temporary changes in menstrual cycles.

The CDC and other health authorities stress that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and broadly effective in preventing severe symptoms associated with coronavirus infection.

Another backer of the bill, Russan Chester, who is unvaccinated, told lawmakers that she believed simple proximity to someone who’d been vaccinated had prompted spontaneous menstruation.

“I have not had a menses cycle in 22 years and I had a bleed-breakthrough just from being around someone who’d had the shot,” Chester said.

The Senate committee was largely impassive during such testimony, but as backers of this bill made clear, they expect support, particularly from Republicans.

“You three Republicans, right there, you better vote correct,” Pontenza warned.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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