Iowa Republicans are pushing back against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Will they take on the measles too?

Ian Richardson
Des Moines Register

Iowa is among a group of about a dozen states that took action in 2021 to ban employer mandates or require exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Republicans, who control both chambers of the Iowa Legislature, have indicated that a push for more legislation to push back against potential coronavirus vaccine requirements is likely. But Republican leaders don't appear as eager to revisit other requirements, such as immunization requirements for students.

Some groups in Iowa that are pushing back against COVID-19 vaccine requirements have also pushed for broader exemptions for childhood vaccinations and gathering more information on childhood vaccines.

Across the U.S., Republicans are likely to take more steps to oppose mandates while Democrats could try to strengthen vaccine requirements. Some national political observers say they don't expect to see it translate into a significant push to alter other vaccination requirements like childhood immunization rules. 

Deni Johnson, 8 of West Des Moines, hugs her mom, Jacque, for support while getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I don't expect it to spill over into childhood immunizations and vaccinations for school," said Tim Storey, CEO of the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

For subscribers:Learn more about what Iowa Republicans plan to do with COVID-19 mandates in this subscriber-only story.

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who chairs the House State Government Committee, said he's looking to keep the focus on vaccine mandates narrow.   

"I've not had a single human being approach me otherwise," Kaufmann said. 

And Informed Choice Iowa vice president Brei Johnson, who has helped lead the fight against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, also said she sees COVID-19 vaccine mandates as the more pressing issue. 

"I feel like people first need to be alleviated (of) that," she said. "You know, secure their job, keep their job, apply for a job without the medical discrimination that we're seeing happening, and exposure to their personal health information."

More:A year after the first COVID shot, nearly 1.8M Iowans are fully vaccinated. But more work remains to end the pandemic

That doesn't mean legislation couldn't appear like it has in years past. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, didn’t rule out additional proposals. However, he also didn't indicate it is a high priority for Senate Republicans. 

“I would say that the COVID vaccine ... shined a light on all the vaccine policy,” Whitver told the Des Moines Register in mid-December. “We'll certainly take a look at that as people file different bills. But I don't have a bill in particular that I'm looking at."

Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at irichardson@registermedia.com, at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.