COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The latest version of a vaccine fairness bill is making its way through the Ohio statehouse.
Introduced Tuesday, House Bill 435 passed out of the House Health Committee with a party-line vote, with 11 Republicans supporting the bill and three Democrats voting against it.
The bill would allow public and private sectors, including businesses and schools, to secure exemptions from employer-mandated U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved COVID-19 vaccines for several reasons, including medical, religious, and what’s being called natural immunity.
The bill said there are some groups that could not file for an exemption, including all workers at the state’s children’s hospitals or those in critical care units at other hospitals.
Democrats objecting to the bill said they did not have time to review it before Tuesday’s hearing, calling the last-minute reveal of the bill’s text “bad public policy.”
“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 State Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) in a statement released after the hearing.
Republicans said the bill would empower those who refuse to be vaccinated.
“No Ohioan should have to involuntarily submit to a COVID-19 vaccination and we hope you will agree the measures provided in House Bill 435 represent a sensible path of fairness towards all as well as navigate this pandemic together,” said State Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township).
This version of the bill does not prohibit testing or masking requirements.
The bill is expected to be debated on the House floor Wednesday.