COLUMBUS — State Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), Ranking Member on the House Health Committee, and Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) issued statements today after Republicans forced the House Health Committee passage of House Bill (HB) 435, anti-vaccine legislation that would expand exemptions for students and public or private employees required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. HB 435 would also grant corporations partial legal immunity from COVID-19 related law suits. The bill was passed along party lines with no opportunity for proponent or opponent testimony.
Democrats expressed concern that the bill could increase vaccine hesitancy and prolong the pandemic, putting the health of all Ohioans at risk.
“Here we are again, discussing improperly vetted, ill-considered legislation,” said Rep. Russo. “House Bill 435 undermines trust in medicine and the COVID-19 vaccines right when we need them the most. We are seeing a vicious resurgence of this pandemic that is affecting our children and unvaccinated Ohioans. It is placing severe stress on our health care system and workers—Ohio’s hospitals and emergency rooms are reaching maximum capacity, and our health care workers are burnt out and exhausted. We already have protections in place in Ohio and federal law that allow individuals to decline vaccinations for medical and religious reasons. The fact that we didn’t even go through the normal process of hearing proponent, opponent, and interested party testimony clearly underscores how determined Republicans are to ignore our science and medical community and extend this pandemic for the sake of extreme voices in their party.”
“Dozens of Ohioans are dying every day from COVID-19. We should be focused on public health measures that keep people healthy, not bills that undermine confidence in vaccines,” said Rep. Liston.
HB 435 comes as Ohio hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, leading some hospitals to go under EMS bypass alerts or delay elective surgeries. Ohio hospitals have also had to turn down requests from southern states that are flooded with COVID-19 patients.
Recent House Health Committee hearings on anti-vaccine legislation have been riddled with misinformation and conspiracy theories. The hearings even received national media coverage after a proponent of HB 248 claimed vaccinated people become “magnetized.”
HB 435 will now proceed to the House floor for a vote.