COLUMBUS — State Reps. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Beth Liston (D-Dublin) today voted in opposition to House Bill (HB) 218, Republican-backed legislation that contains last-minute changes to prohibit schools, universities and employers from requiring students or employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. It would also bar public and private entities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for any reason.
The bill comes as Ohio’s coronavirus numbers this week have dramatically increased above the 21-day rolling case average.
“We should be focusing our energy on protecting people from COVID-19, not undermining public health recommendations. This bill panders to extremist groups and conspiracy theorists who have led the charge in pushing anti-vaccine bills. HB 218 gets in the way of expert, business, school, and community efforts to provide safety. It will prolong the pandemic and lead to more people dying in our state,” said Rep. Liston.
Democrats expressed concerns that the bill sends the wrong message to Ohioans who continue to lag the nation for coronavirus vaccination, ranking 41st among states. More than 25,000 Ohioans have died from COVID-19.
Rep. Russo introduced an amendment during session that would allow all healthcare providers to require COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans rejected the amendment, despite widespread support from healthcare organizations.
“It’s ridiculous that we continue voting on this kind of ill-conceived legislation,” said Rep. Russo. “Statehouse Republicans continue catering to extremist factions and ignoring the recommendations of our business, scientific, and medical experts to the detriment of Ohioans’ health. As long as we keep going down this road, the pandemic will continue, more people will die unnecessarily, and Ohio will be slow to recover.”
Additionally, Democrats warned that vaccine hesitancy would slow Ohio’s economic recovery by threatening the health of workers and causing uncertainty among consumers. Ohio’s major business and health organizations oppose the Republican ban.
HB 218 would:
· Prohibit schools, universities and employers from requiring students or employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine;
· Expand exemptions for medical, natural immunity and reasons of personal conscience;
· Bar public and private entities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for any reason;
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.