MISSOULA, Mont. — Montana’s U.S. Congressional delegation agrees -- the COVID-19 vaccine is the ticket back to normal, but in a hearing on the floor of the Montana Senate Thursday, a lawmaker’s claims about the vaccine created waves.
The Montana Senate advanced House Bill 702, which goes one step further than Gov. Greg Gianforte’s executive order prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine passports. The measure bans the use of all vaccine passports and prohibits workplaces from requiring vaccination proof as a condition of employment.
During the hearing on the Senate floor in Helena, State Sen. Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) objected to a proposed amendment on the bill, saying, “It's still requiring an employee to put something into their body in order to be employed. That’s crazy. What's next? I've read articles about putting a little chip in with the vaccine.”
The conspiracy theories about tracking chips in COVID-19 vaccines have been debunked by multiple outlets, including Politifact, FactCheck.org, Reuters, Poynter, the New York Times, USA Today and more.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines are both working to encourage Montanans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Tester, who is the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, joined ranking member and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas to release a PSA featuring other bipartisan senators encouraging veterans and their families to get vaccinations.
“What I would hope people would do is talk to your doc and visit with them about how important this is,” Tester said. “And hopefully, you know, get vaccinated, because I think the quicker we can get these vaccines in people's arms, now that the availability is becoming better, I think the quicker we are to return back to normal and do the things we all love to do in the great state of Montana.”
Daines will be part of a PSA to be produced by Gallatin County, where new COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, to also encourage getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“My wife and I participated in the Pfizer vaccine trial, so I'm proud to say that we are vaccinated,” Daines said. “And right now, the vaccine is available to all Montanans aged 16 and older. And I highly encourage all Montanans to get this safe and effective vaccine as soon as you're able.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale issued a statement, saying, “I have been encouraging people to consult with their doctor and get the vaccine if medically appropriate. The vaccine will help return us back to normal.”
Gov. Greg Gianforte has consistently said he encourages Montanans to get the COVID-19 vaccine, also.
NBC Montana asked Tester about tracking device conspiracy theories Thursday morning, hours before Regier’s comments.
“I would just tell you that that is an incredibly unfortunate conspiracy theory that is being put out there that’s just flat wrong. It’s incorrect,” he said.
NBC Montana reached out to Regier for comment, along with the Senate majority communications director, but did not hear back as of news time.