COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Ohio’s experiences its latest surge in COVID-19 cases, lawmakers will gather Tuesday to discuss legislation that could impact vaccination rates in the state.
House Bill 248 is a hotly debated piece of legislation. One that’s divided not just lawmakers, but the public as well, as Ohio hovers around 50% of its population vaccinated.
The bill, known as the Vaccine Choice and Anti-discrimination Act, would essentially prevent both public and private entities from being able to require the vaccine.
As of 10 a.m., people had gathered outside the Statehouse in support of the bill.
A number of Ohio lawmakers have been outspoken about individuals having the right to choose for themselves whether to get vaccinated or not, while health experts have said the virus goes beyond the right to choose and is a matter of public health and safety.
Doctors testified that their choice not to get vaccinated could ultimately put others at risk.
“The rise of a truly severe adverse reaction to a vaccine is currently one in a million doses,” said pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Brady.
“Many of these people are in danger of losing their jobs and some students not able to attend classes,” said bill proponent Scott Shoemaker. “For all I know, my own job may be in jeopardy. Our medical freedom rights to choose what is best for us need to be protected.”
“We will do everything we can to ration ventilators and save pregnant mothers and their babies and make sure parents go home to their children, but we need your help,” said Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Dr. Emily Miller. “Consider how House Bill 248 will make our current situation even worse.”
House Speaker Bob Cupp and the House Major Leadership team issued a statement Monday saying that due to the high interest in the bill, there would be just one hearing, with no amendment or votes. They will then pause hearings while they work with Chairman Scott Lipps, bill sponsors, and others on the issue.
One of those sponsors, Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester), said those who have contracted COVID-19 don’t need the vaccination.
“I know COVID is real, but again, again, I had COVID, so did my family and here we are,” she said. “I still have antibodies.”