RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — State agencies and local governments in North Carolina would not be allowed to deny employment to someone who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or prove they’ve been vaccinated, under legislation passed Wednesday by the state House.

House Bill 98, Medical Freedom Act, passed the House 73-41, with three Democrats and all present Republicans voting in favor, and was sent to the Senate.

Beginning in January 2024, the state’s public schools, community colleges and universities would also be prohibited from requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccination or a booster shot. Private schools and businesses could still require their students or employees to receive the vaccine.

Rep. Brian Biggs, a Randolph County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, expressed his concerns on the House floor that such requirements pressure and rush people to make a serious medical decision before taking the time to consider if it’s the right choice for them.

“It’s not intended for everyone,” he said of the COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s not a one size fits all. We just want to give people the option.”

North Carolina law requires students at public, private and religious colleges and universities to receive other immunizations in most circumstances, including for mumps, measles and polio. The coronavirus vaccine is not currently required.

Rep. Maria Cervania, a Wake County Democrat and epidemiologist, explained the early development of coronavirus vaccines and touted their importance in preventing more deaths.

“To say it’s discrimination to choose not to show proof of the vaccine when we’re trying to control outbreak and death … is derelict to my profession and to other medical professionals,” she said during floor debate.

The bill includes certain exceptions for jobs and educational programs at facilities certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that require their employees to get the shot.

The NCMS will continue to monitor this bill and bring you more as it moves through the Senate.