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Author: Representative Gregg Schmedes, Tijeras

In our recent special legislative session, I introduced legislation (HB11) to remove the power that the state of New Mexico currently holds to force individuals—under threat of house arrest— to vaccinate people against their will, in the case of a public health crisis.

The Governor would not allow my legislation to be given a hearing.

At the time, I spoke to many folks who thought my concerns were alarmist. Unfortunately, no one can think that now.

Last Thursday, in Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's weekly COVID-19 briefing, she stated that she plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for nursing home residents, healthcare workers, educators, first responders, and corrections populations. She also seemed to imply that requiring the vaccine for school children was also under consideration.

Now that everyone must take the threat of mandatory vaccination seriously, let's consider the implications of such a policy.

First, I must state that mandatory COVID vaccination and medical freedom are mutually exclusive. Forcing healthy people to take a vaccine under threat of legal prosecution is wrong. The government shouldn't be allowed to force you to undergo a medical procedure or inject something into your body against your will.

In the case of this particular vaccine, if one is approved and produced, we will be dealing with a substance rushed through approval. With potentially unknown side effects, I would be very wary of forcing such a vaccine on a large population even without my belief in medical freedom.

Mandatory vaccinations might also violate the religious freedom rights of individuals who have a religious objection to vaccination, particularly to vaccines made with fetal cells. Any potential coronavirus vaccine could be derived from fetal cell lines, but this is still uncertain.

I am also concerned about the economic results of such a policy when it comes to teachers, police officers, doctors, and other professionals choosing to leave the state if they are faced with the prospect of mandatory vaccination. If Governor Grisham makes good on her promise, I may be forced to either take the vaccine or give up the practice of medicine in New Mexico. And I will not take a vaccine with such a high potential for unknown side effects.

But I would like to raise one more reason why mandatory vaccination is dangerous. At the end of the session, I received a call from a lobbyist for major pharmaceutical company, who was concerned that I would even draft such legislation. That's because pharmaceutical companies stand to benefit more than anyone else from mandatory vaccinations. We've seen this type of corruption in state politics before: in 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order mandating that all 11 and 12-year old girls in the state should receive the HPV vaccine. It was later revealed that not only had the company that produced the vaccine not only substantially donated to Perry, but his former chief of staff had become a lobbyist for the same company.

Pharmaceutical companies produce life-saving drugs, for which I am tremendously grateful. But they should not be given financial and political power at the expense of individual liberty.

I am a doctor, and I am not against vaccinations. I think most vaccinations in use today are extremely beneficial. But the best tool, and the only tool worth using in a free society is persuasion, not force. There is a very wide gulf between "recommended" and "required"—and it's a gulf we, as Americans, should not cross.

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