A controversial anti-vaccination bill will be heard again on Tuesday in the Ohio House health committee, but legislature leaders have already said they’ll be putting the brakes on for now.
In a statement released Monday, House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima said, “This legislation is important to many members of this faction. Because of the keen interest in the bill, we have the Health Committee Chair (Scott) Lipps for a hearing on Tuesday, August 24th, with no amendments or votes. We will then suspend the HB 248 hearings while we work on this important issue with the Chair, Bill Sponsor and all interested parties. ”
House Bill 248 has caused enormous controversy in Ohio. Witnesses advocating medical decisions and less government oversight, as well as those prone to conspiracy theories, have pushed for its adoption. In June, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny suggested that the COVID-19 vaccine could magnetize people and have some sort of interface with 5G cell towers.
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Anti-vaccination protests have erupted across Ohio, beating companies for requesting masks and / or vaccines and calling for House Law 248 to be passed.
Protests have taken place in Columbus, Akron, Mansfield, Cincinnati and elsewhere in recent weeks, including outside of Ohio hospitals, including Summa Health in Akron, Kettering Medical Center near Dayton, and Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and Grant Medical Center in Columbus.
Corporations, hospitals, public health professionals and others have spoken out against the bill.
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The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has severely warned lawmakers to drop HB248 and stop telling companies how to work. In a recent interview, CEO Steve Stivers said he didn’t expect most companies to need vaccines, but claims the bill is a slippery descent that could lead to more state regulation.
“The anti-business Republicans are generally more populist, but this bill is very, very dangerous and, in my opinion, makes us see the government control the means of production,” he said. “Every Republican and Democrat should think about whether they want to be part of it.”
The former GOP congressman has also beaten lawmakers for introducing the measure as companies are on the verge of losing temporary protection from lawsuits related to COVID-19.
“You can not take away their liability protection nor prevent them from managing the risk,” said Stivers.
In a prepared testimony this week, Pat Tiberi of the Ohio Business Roundtable called the bill a public health hazard and government spillover.
“Simply put, it robs business owners of their rights,” said Tiberi, a Republican who served 18 years in the US House of Representatives and eight years in the Ohio House of Representatives.
The original version of the bill would prevent government agencies, schools, childcare facilities and others from requesting or requiring vaccination against COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. Schools and day care centers would need to explicitly notify parents of any available exemptions from vaccination laws for children, including a collection bin that would allow them to skip vaccination for any reason.
Employers, including hospitals, cannot require workers to be vaccinated, enroll in a vaccination record, or disclose their vaccination status.
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The bill would also repeal state law requiring college students to be vaccinated against hepatitis B and meningitis in order to live in on-campus accommodations.
Vaccines and other public health advances are credited with increasing life expectancy over the past century. Vaccines protect against infectious diseases and prevent disease, disability and death.
Proponents of House Bill 248 say they are not opposed to vaccines but oppose vaccines prescribed by governments and employers.
This story will be updated.
Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which works for Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliate news organizations across Ohio.
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