In the midst of the current pandemic, there is a lot of news about last week's Supreme Court hearing challenging the authority of the federal government, through OSHA, to mandate vaccination policy for large employers. However, in Ohio, there is also an ongoing political and philosophical tug of war.
The issue is about vaccination policy, and what are the rights of employers to impose conditions of employment on their employees.
On one side are employers and public health advocates who support the rights of employer-based vaccination policies. And on the other side are "medical freedom" advocates who are opposed to employers (and sometimes other societal entities) having a say in vaccination mandates as a condition of employment (or attendance at schools or admittance to a public venue).
There have been over a dozen bills introduced in the Ohio General Assembly that would limit vaccination policies in some form. The CMA is part of a coalition of healthcare and employer organizations that oppose these limitations. Only one bill has passed so far, HB 244, which in general:
- Prevents public schools and state colleges from requiring students to receive vaccines that have not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration
- Forbids schools from “discriminating” against anyone who has not been vaccinated, which includes infection control provisions like masks and social distancing
- Does not apply to university-affiliated health systems/facilities
A second bill, HB 218, has passed the Ohio House and is getting hearings in the Senate. This bill would grant broad exemption authority to most individuals who can request it for their own reasons.
Vaccine and Gene Therapy Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act. The final development is an ongoing attempt by advocates to place an initiated statute provision on the ballot in 2022. This effort would like to have Ohio voters decide on enacting a new law that would limit employer and public health vaccination requirements, as well as prohibit vaccination requirements for access to public venues, and other limitations. This bill would apply not only to current pandemic vaccines but other vaccines as well.
Before this issue can appear before voters in November, there is a lengthy process that includes drafting detailed language, obtaining signatures from registered voters, a period for the Legislature to consider the proposal, and if the Legislature does not act, then a period for collection of more signatures. Proponents are in the early stages of working with the Attorney General, who just last week questioned their initial minimum number of signatures, as well petition ballot summary language.
Bottom line: While practical health and economic ramifications of the current pandemic continue, a debate about vaccination policy as a part of the government's role in public health management is bound to be an issue in Ohio's news for months to come. And has a chance of being front and center in this November's election.