Ohio Poised to Vote on the Future of All Vaccines

Carolyn V. Murray

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There’s been a lot of talk about recently proposed vaccine legislation in Ohio recently and no doubt, a lot of Ohioans have assumed that it was a COVID-19 specific discussion. It certainly has a lot to do with coronavirus vaccination plans but includes a multitude of far-reaching implications.

House Bill 248 (HB 248) covers all vaccines

That’s right. Polio. Hepatitis B. Whooping cough. Measles. Mumps. Meningitis. And of course, COVID-19.

What the Enact Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act (HB 248) says specifically is that no state or local government, nor employer, nor educational institution can require vaccinations, ask about vaccinations, collect any data on vaccinations, or even encourage vaccinations.

Of course, any private citizen would still be able to acquire any of these vaccinations on their own initiative. But it means that within a single generation, there could be large unvaccinated groups of students, working and playing alongside one another, from pre-school to college. The same could be true for any workplace, large or small. And an Ohio business owner with a predisposition to specific illnesses would not be able to request vaccinations nor masks of their employees or customers.

What does Governor Vax-A-Million think about this?

The public has become accustomed to hearing that state vaccination responses have been split along partisan lines, with Republican-led states having the laxest lockdown and mask restrictions, in concert with higher vaccine hesitancy and anti-mask sentiment amongst residents.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine bucks that trend and has demonstrated that he couldn’t be more enthusiastic about achieving maximum vaccination rates. He has expended a great deal of energy recently in the attempt to get as many Ohioans vaccinated as possible, with the centerpiece of his efforts being the lottery vaccine, awarding weekly prizes of one million dollars to one vaccinated Ohioan for five consecutive weeks as well as the same number of full-ride scholarships to another Ohio winner for any Ohio university or college.

In addition to avoiding any more suffering or loss of life from COVID-19, the governor clearly has his eyes on the economic well-being of the state – wanting to avoid further outbreaks or business and school lockdowns at all costs.

Predictably, he opposes HB 248 and will certainly veto the bill if it lands on his desk. And that will be that? No, actually, the House and Senate can override the Governor’s veto and the bill could indeed become law in the state of Ohio. This happened just recently with Senate Bill 22, which allows the General Assembly to rescind any health orders from the governor or the health department. So, it should be considered a real possibility for HB 248.

What do health professionals think about this?

Health professionals fall into a wide spectrum of opinions and behaviors. Some cried with joy when the COVID-19 vaccines became available to them. Some staunchly refuse to take it – 178 staff members at Houston Methodist Hospital were recently suspended from their jobs for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine (they are pursuing legal action.)

But a lot of these health care workers who strenuously oppose the vaccine, do so because they feel that it was developed in haste and is still experimental. It seems likely that most of those workers would still support the widespread use of long-tested vaccines for polio or meningitis.

The Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) as well as a number of children’s hospitals, health plans, are vehemently opposed to this bill. They believe it will completely undermine and dismantle the state’s childhood vaccination program and have disastrous consequences on the state’s health and workforce for generations to come.

Is it possible for polio outbreaks to leap from the history books to the six o’clock news? That’s precisely the worst-case scenario these organizations are trying to prevent.

What do you think?

I grew up near Cleveland over forty years ago. I do recall our whole family getting chickenpox, but we were spared any more serious contagions. We all got the typical array of childhood vaccinations and I’ve never had reason to regret that decision on my parents’ part. I’ve also never had reason to envision a future of a largely unvaccinated population of Ohio children, but that possible future is now on the table.

Do you support this antivaccine legislation? If not, you may want to give your local representatives a call. This is an extremely consequential bill and you may want your voice to have a say in the final decision.

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At the moment, I'm highly interested in the ways in which we can cope and thrive during, after, and despite a global pandemic. My background is in sociology, education, and creative writing. If you were to scroll through the tabs on my laptop, you'd find music, travel, politics, longevity, and brain health.

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