N.M. Rep. Gregg Schmedes

In our recent special legislative session, I introduced legislation (House Bill 11) to remove the power the state of New Mexico holds to force individuals — under threat of house arrest — to receive vaccinations against their will, in the case of a public health crisis.

The governor would not allow my legislation to have a hearing.

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

On Aug. 13, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for nursing home residents, health-care workers, educators, first responders and corrections populations. She also seemed to imply that requiring the vaccine for school children was under consideration.

Let’s consider the implications of such a policy.

First, 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.

With 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 it on a large population, even without my belief in medical freedom.

Mandatory vaccinations might also violate the religious freedom of individuals with a religious objection to them, 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 if teachers, police officers, doctors and other professionals choose to leave the state if faced with mandatory vaccination.

If Gov. Lujan Grisham makes good on her promise, I may be forced to take the vaccine or give up the practice of medicine in New Mexico. I will not take a vaccine with such a high potential for unknown side effects.

Also, at the end of the session, I received a call from a lobbyist for a major pharmaceutical company, who was concerned that I would draft such legislation. 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 Gov. Rick Perry signed an executive order mandating that all 11- and 12-year-old girls in the state receive the HPV vaccine. It was later revealed that not only had the company that produced the vaccine substantially donated to Perry, but also his former chief of staff had become a lobbyist for the 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 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. There is a very wide gulf between “recommended” and “required”— and it’s a gulf we, as Americans, should not cross.

(N.M. Rep. Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras represents District 22, which includes a portion of Sandoval County. He’s a Republican.)