Ohio's Vaccination Legislation Summary
Over the past several months, OSMA has been on the front lines of the ongoing deliberations at the Statehouse regarding vaccines and employer requirements for vaccinations. Several legislative proposals have been in the spotlight recently that would limit how employers could require vaccinations, both COVID-19-specific and other vaccines.
As part of a coalition of organizations representing the medical and business communities, OSMA’s Advocacy Team has urged legislators to reject legislation that would weaken the robust public health framework that protects us from the adverse impact of many vaccine-preventable diseases.
Here is a brief refresher on recent vaccine legislation in Ohio, along with a summary of action on this issue in the past several weeks:
- House Bill 248: As a reminder, while it was framed as a bill about COVID-19 vaccines, HB 248 is a much broader proposal which would prohibit an employer—even a hospital or physician office—from requiring employees to receive ANY vaccination, or wear a mask. Under current law, Ohioans can seek reasonable accommodation of exemption from vaccination requirements for religious or medical contraindications. HB 248 would eliminate the ability of institutions and employers (including daycares and schools) from making vaccinations of any kind a requirement in the first place, destroying the “first line of defense” against harm in the event of a disease outbreak.
After a series of summer hearings, in which numerous OSMA members provided testimony, the bill was unable to receive the support needed for it to be voted out of the House Health Committee.
- House Bill 435: HB 435 was recently introduced with the intention of offering an alternative approach to complete bans on vaccine mandates, to help appease hospital, medical and business groups. However, the medical and business communities have largely unified in opposition to this bill, much like in the discussion regarding HB 248.
If enacted, this legislation would require Ohio schools, colleges, universities and businesses that require COVID-19 vaccines to include exemptions for conscience as well as “natural immunity” and “medical contraindications.” Further, it 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. As written, the exemptions would not be available to those working in children’s hospitals, critical care units, or ICU units. The exemptions would only apply to a business’s existing employees. HB 435 would also prohibit state, county and municipal public facilities from requiring proof of vaccination before entry. Provisions in the bill would only be effective through June 30, 2023.
OSMA spoke out in opposition to HB 435, stating to the Ohio House in a joint letter with other coalition members that its provisions do not address the concerns expressed previously about HB 248, and are not what our state needs as we work toward pandemic recovery. OSMA’s Advocacy Team continues to emphasize that protection of an employer’s rights to make decisions in the best interest of their employees and those they serve is critical.
HB 435 also could not garner the support it needed to get to the House floor for a vote after being fast-tracked through the committee process by House leadership. While opponents of HB 248 continued to sound the alarm about the new proposal, proponents of HB 248 were also displeased with the bill as they believed it did not go far enough. No consensus could be reached on the issue.
For now, due to the apparent impasse, it appears that the Ohio Legislature’s discussion of the vaccine requirement issue is at a standstill until further notice.
OSMA will continue to monitor the situation and report on any new developments should updates arise in the coming months. Should you have any questions regarding the current status of legislation, please contact the advocacy staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.