Ohio House leaders hit pause on controversial anti-vaccine bill
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) - Controversial proposed legislation preventing vaccine requirements will have another hearing in the Ohio House Health Committee Tuesday, but some lawmakers are hitting the pause button.
House Bill 248 would block Ohio businesses and schools from requiring vaccines.
Coronavirus is not mentioned in the bill, which would cover all vaccines.
State Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester Township) is the main sponsor of the “Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act.”
Two other local lawmakers, State Reps. Tom Brinkman (R-Mt. Lookout) and Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason), are co-sponsoring proposal.
But in a statement Monday, House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and the House Majority Leadership said:
“We appreciate the continued hard work of the members of the Health Committee on House Bill 248. This legislation is important to many members of this caucus. Due to the high interest in the bill, we have directed Chairman Lipps to have one hearing, which will take place on Tuesday, August 24, with no amendments or votes. We will then pause hearings on HB 248 while we work with the chairman, the bill’s sponsor, and all interested parties on this important issue.”
The bill comes amid debate over the choice to vaccinate as local, state and national officials try to increase vaccination rates amid surging COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant.
Proponents say the purpose of H.B. 248 is to protect medical choice and medical freedom.
It does not prohibit mandatory vaccines. It allows for all individuals to have three exemptions to all vaccines.
It also allows an individual to bring a civil action if the individual believes a violation has occurred.
Gov. Mike DeWine recently spoke out against the bill.
“I think its important for us to remember what great strides have been made, how our lives have been changed by vaccines,” he said back in June.
Ohio healthcare providers have sent a letter to lawmakers cautioning House Bill 248 would “destroy our current public health framework” and has the “potential to reverse decades of immunity from life-threatening, but vaccine-preventable diseases” such as measles, mumps, hepatitis, meningitis, and tuberculosis.”
The group, which includes the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, Ohio State Medical Association, and Ohio Association of Child Care Providers, also point out in their letter that Ohio law already allows for school immunization exemptions for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons. “Most businesses allow for flexibility in regard to vaccinations,” they said.
The proposed legislation drew national headlines recently after a known conspiracy theorist who has spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a licensed physician in Ohio and author of “Saying No to Vaccines,” testified about the bill during the June 8 House Health Committee meeting.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized,” Tenpenny said. “You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”
That prompted State Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) to caution House Bill 248 is “complete craziness.”
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