As coronavirus vaccines begin rolling out nationwide, two legislators in Virginia have introduced legislation that would grant broad exemptions for people who object on the grounds of religious belief. 

State Sen. Mark J. Peake (R-Lynchburg) and Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg) have introduced bills that would allow parents and guardians to refuse vaccinations for their children, even during a pandemic or health emergency, reported Virginia’s Capital News Service.

The decision to receive the vaccination is currently voluntary. But Peake and Cole said they are concerned that laws may be passed requiring people to receive the vaccine.

Similar bills are pending in other states.

U.S. public health officials say that between 70-90% of the population must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. In the past, objections to vaccines based on religious or philosophical beliefs have led to outbreaks of diseases like measles in some parts of the country.

Capital News Service noted that Virginia has experienced more than 387,000 coronavirus cases, with deaths exceeding 5,000 state residents. Officials with the Virginia Department of Public Health are urging people to get vaccinated.

Vaccines, the department tweeted last month “are one of many important tools to help us stop this pandemic.”

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