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Coronavirus

Arkansas Lawmakers OK Opt-Out for COVID Vaccine Mandates

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to legislation requiring employers to let their workers opt out of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Senate approved the legislation on Wednesday despite opposition from the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, business groups and hospitals. The bill is among several attempts to limit or prohibit vaccine requirements that have dominated the Legislature’s attention during a session intended to focus on congressional redistricting.

The proposals came primarily in response to President Joe Biden’s order that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly.

The bill approved by the Senate on a 22-12 vote would require a process for employees to opt out of vaccine requirements if they are tested weekly for the virus or can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies. Health officials say antibody testing should not be used to assess immunity against the coronavirus and people who have recovered from COVID-19 should still get vaccinated.

Some of the state’s largest employers, including Bentonville-based Walmart, have mandated vaccinations for some or all employees. It’s still uncertain whether the bill will take effect immediately or early next year, if it’s enacted.

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