Vaccine choice? Ohio bill seeks to outlaw penalties for skipping COVID shot

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio lawmakers are going to consider a bill that would allow individuals to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, without fear of penalty.

Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) introduced House Bill 248, the Vaccine Choice and Anti-discrimination Act, this week. It would allow individuals to decline any vaccine and for parents to decline for their children to be vaccinated.

In a news release, Gross said she is for vaccines as a nurse practitioner but that getting vaccinated should be an individual’s choice.

“There are eleven and a half million people in Ohio,” Gross said. “Many people across the state may be likely to decline vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine for conscientious, religious, or medical reasons. Without the exemption provisions this bill provides, the notion of a vaccine passport could easily lead to a class system in Ohio where segregation and discrimination will proliferate.”

Vaccine passports have entered the conversation nationally as COVID-19 vaccination efforts have accelerated. In Ohio, 3.8 million people, or 33% of the state’s population, had started the vaccination process as of Wednesday. The passports would provide proof of vaccination and could potentially be used for travel purposes or access to venues.

Last week, Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) said he was planning to introduce legislation to prohibit vaccine passports. Cutrona is not among the 15 Republican co-sponsors to Gross’ bill.

Under Gross’ bill, to decline a vaccination, an individual can either submit a statement giving their reason or convey it verbally. Reasons include medical contraindications, natural immunity, or reasons of conscience, including religious convictions.

A person declining vaccination could not be discriminated against, denied service or access, required to wear a facemask or other vaccination status label, or penalized financially or socially.

The wording of the bill might make it illegal for schools to require vaccinations or for hospitals to require that their staffs receive flu shots.

“This is a matter of freedom,” Gross said in her statement. “The purpose of this legislation is to allow people to choose to do what they feel is best for their own body and protect individuals from any consequences or hardships for choosing one way or the other.”

The bill has yet to be referred to a committee. Among the co-sponsors is Rep. Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander). NBC4 has reached out to Jordan for comment.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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