The House Commerce & Labor Committee passed the new bill with several amendments out of the committee on party lines Thursday morning, and then late in the afternoon, HB 218 passed on the House floor by a vote of 58-32.
As a reminder, OSMA has been actively engaged in advocacy efforts against several anti-vaccine mandate bills this year, including HB 435. As part of a coalition of organizations representing the medical and business communities, OSMA has led and rallied a grassroots effort across the state to communicate to legislators about the dangers posed by proposals that discourage community vaccination rates. OSMA’s advocacy team has continued to emphasize the concerns of our members, urging legislators to reject measures that would weaken the robust public health framework that protects us from the adverse impact of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Yesterday’s abrupt action on anti-vaccine mandate legislation comes after a previously declared stalemate, due to lack of consensus among the majority party in the Ohio House. Faced with mounting pressure and legislative deadlines, several members of the Republican caucus took an opportunity to advance an anti-vaccine mandate proposal and get it passed through the House chamber.
The provisions in HB 218 are mostly set to sunset in 2025, and are as follows:
Provisions in HB 218 would broaden vaccine exemptions in Ohio in such a way that would allow most Ohio workers and students to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine requirement with a simple written statement. The bill also specifies that an injury from a mandated COVID-19 vaccine is eligible for workers' compensation unless the person receives compensation from national vaccine injury programs. Furthermore, it allows emergency medical technicians with proper training to conduct COVID tests, and extends civil immunity provisions from HB 606 (prior legislation from last general assembly) through June 20, 2023.
Exemptions would not be available under HB 218 to students who undergo training or instruction at either of the following owned or operated by, or affiliated with, an institution of higher education:
Similarly, employees of the above would not be eligible for the exemptions under the bill.
Further, HB 218 also contains language that would prohibit schools from treating unvaccinated students differently than vaccinated students, such as by requiring only unvaccinated students to wear masks or face coverings.
HB 218 still needs to pass through the Ohio Senate to make it to the governor’s desk for his signature, and based on previous actions on similar bills, Governor DeWine could veto the bill in the event that it makes it across the finish line. The future of this issue remains uncertain. OSMA remains actively involved in this issue, and will continue to advocate for Ohio physicians and their patients, stressing the serious risks posed by this legislation.