By Jon King /

A local lawmaker’s legislation that would prohibit a mandate for children to be vaccinated for COVID-19 has cleared the first hurdle.

Michigan Republicans on Tuesday advanced a bill that would prohibit state and local health officials from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for children under age 18. The concept is not under consideration in the state but GOP senators said they want to be proactive.

The bill is sponsored by Republican State Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township who said, of the state, “While they might not be mandating something, they’re certainly creating a scenario where mandates are being pushed. I just wanted to ensure that that wasn’t going to happen in this space. Parents should be allowed to make the decision on this.”

Democrats called the bill “needless” and noted that if the vaccine were added to the list of immunizations children need to attend school, the state allows for exemptions. Senator Winnie Banks of Grand Rapids called Theis’ bill “simply another solution in search of a problem.”

For the second straight session day, the House adjourned without voting on GOP-backed legislation that would bar governments from issuing a COVID-19 vaccine passport, requiring proof of vaccination to access a public service or imposing a fee or penalty based on vaccination status. The sponsor may be making changes to the bill.

It would apply to the state, local governments, school districts, universities, community colleges and other entities primarily funded through state or local authority. The University of Michigan has said it will require students to be fully vaccinated to live on the Ann Arbor campus in the fall term.

Both bills would need to clear the other chamber before heading to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has said state officials are not looking to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or to institute vaccination passports. About 58% of residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose. The state’s goal is to immunize at least 70%.

Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said the vaccines are the best way for people to keep themselves and their families safe, but “the state has been very clear that we’re not currently exploring a vaccine passport concept, nor has there been any discussion about mandating vaccines. Instead of working with us to promote these lifesaving vaccines, Republicans are wasting time holding meetings with out-of-state conspiracy theorists and banning things that don’t exist.”

Meanwhile, Michigan Advance reports that State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey on Tuesday tweeted out COVID misinformation when he implied individuals who were previously infected with COVID-19 are naturally immune, and therefore should not be “discriminat[ed]” against or coerced into getting vaccinated.

That runs contrary to a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that everyone — whether they've recovered from COVID-19 or never been infected — receive a vaccination against the virus. Shirkey announced in December that he had been infected with COVID-19, but has yet to receive the vaccine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.