Ohio state legislators approved a bill prohibiting public schools and universities from requiring Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations for students and staff members. House Bill 244, which the Ohio General Assembly approved on June 28, banned mandatory vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines that are not fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. have only been granted emergency use authorization as of writing.
The bill passed along party lines in both the upper and lower chambers of the Ohio legislature, with Republicans for and Democrats against the bill. Lawmakers in the state Senate voted 24-8 in favor of the bill, while those in the state House of Representatives voted 61-34.
Senate President Matt Huffman argued that young adults aren’t as severely affected by COVID-19 compared to other groups. “The simple fact is that decision needs to be decided by their parents and their family,” the GOP lawmaker said.
Another GOP legislator, State Sen. Andrew Brenner, argued that college students should be able to independently make the decision. “This is about personal rights. But it’s also about making sure our students are protected, and that parents … and college students are making the decisions about their own personal rights,” he said. Brenner continued that despite clinical trials saying the vaccines were “effective,” some parents are not comfortable with them.
Following its passing, only the signature of GOP Gov. Mike DeWine is needed for the bill to become a law. Local Ohio television station NBC4 reported that DeWine has declined to comment on whether he would veto or sign the bill. Local Ohio radio station WKSU 87.9 reported that the bill does not apply to private schools, private universities and public hospitals.
The two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines have been authorized under emergency use since December 2020. The single-dose adenoviral vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has also received emergency approval from the FDA since February 2021.
The new bill also bans discrimination against unvaccinated people
Aside from banning mandatory vaccinations, House Bill 244 also prohibited public educational institutions from discriminating against people who’ve opted not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The bill outlined different forms of discrimination, including requiring unvaccinated individuals from participating in activities different from those required of vaccinated persons. (Related: Rutgers students protest mandatory vaccination rule.)
“Vaccines should be a choice. Even in K-12 schools right now, every vaccine – not just COVID-19 vaccines – can be exempted from,” GOP State Sen. Niraj Antani told WDTN 2. “In order to work or to go to school, you should not be forced to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Many Republican states have gone against the grain in fighting mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and vaccine passports. Florida spearheaded these moves to defend health freedom, and other states have followed suit. Back in late March of this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis openly slammed the idea of vaccine passports as “completely unacceptable.”
DeSantis said during a March 29 press conference: “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of [vaccination] to just simply be able to participate in normal society.” (Related: Florida Gov. DeSantis ENDS all local coronavirus restrictions and mandates, bans vaccine passports.)
He added: “Requiring so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life – such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant or going to a movie theater – would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.” He later signed an executive order on April 2 banning state-run organizations and private businesses from making vaccine passports a requirement for working or obtaining services.
Later in April, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 2006 (SB 2006) on April 29 – bolstering the earlier executive order by DeSantis. The bill’s text read: “[Any] business operating in this state may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon or service from the business operations in this state.” SB 2006 also mentioned that violators could face fines of up to $5,000 per infraction.
DeSantis signed SB 2006 into law on May 3. A statement from his office on the same day remarked that the signing “codifies the prohibition of COVID-19 vaccine passports.” The governor said: “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected – and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision.”