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Ohio anti-vaccine bill would be 'devastating to public health,' commissioner says

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Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 24, 2021

Ohio House Bill 248 — a piece of legislation that would prohibit Ohio employers from requiring workers to receive any vaccination, including COVID-19 and flu shots — attracted nationwide attention in June when a Cleveland-based doctor attempted to support it with the claim that COVID-19 shots could “magnetize” their recipients.

(They cannot.)

The spotlight was dimmer by Tuesday, when the House held another public hearing, but health workers’ fears of its implementation are as intense as ever.

“I think it’s devastating to public health,” said Clermont County Public Health commissioner Julianne Nesbit. "To go back and undo years of public health practice that has made us a healthier community, a healthier state, a healthier nation, I think will be detrimental to health moving forward."

The bill makes no specific references to COVID-19 but instead prohibits businesses and government from mandating any vaccination. Schools are limited, too — they can continue to require children be vaccinated for mumps, polio, whooping cough, chicken pox and a small number of other conditions, but they cannot require a COVID-19 shot or any vaccine not on the prewritten list.

Republican Rep. Jennifer Gross, who represents West Chester, describes the bill as tackling an issue of freedom. So do supporters, some of whom appropriated a long-running piece of abortion advocacy language when testifying Tuesday.

“The adage, ‘My body, my choice’ applies here,” supporter Matthew Eaton told the House.

But members of the business community, including Ohio Chamber of Commerce director Steve Stivers, argued its passage would encroach on employers’ rights. Stivers strongly opposes the bill for its sweeping range and the precedent it sets.

"The bill veers off into employer rights and says the employers can't dictate the terms of employment in their businesses,” he said. “And that's a very troubling standard. … It's very troubling to set one standard like that because we do have hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, doctors offices.”

There’s no vote scheduled on the bill yet. Legislators hit pause Tuesday and promised to refine it based on testimony thusfar.

The Ohio General Assembly reconvenes in September.