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Republican House bill puts gaping exemptions in Ohio vaccine mandates

The bill introduced on Tuesday is being fast-tracked through the Ohio House of Representatives.
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 5:39 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Ohio Republican leaders unveiled legislation on Tuesday that would place new limits on vaccine mandates in Ohio businesses and schools.

The bill would empower most Ohio workers and students to “refuse mandated COVID-19 vaccinations,” according to a spokesperson for Republican lawmakers.

Its top-line exemption, for “reasons of conscience,” would only require that a student or employee submit a written statement, in effect transforming all vaccine mandates covered by the bill into testing mandates with vaccine opt-outs.

>> Major Ohio business groups resist House bill gutting vaccine mandates

House Bill 435, the Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act, was fast-tracked through the House Health Committee on the same day it was introduced. It will go before the full Republican-controlled House on Wednesday.

Its sponsors are Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) and Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township.)

“[The Vaccine Fairness Act] strikes a sensible balance between personal medical freedom and safeguarding the latitude of employers and schools to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of employees, students, patients and customers,” Seitz said.

HB 435 would require schools, colleges, universities and businesses that require COVID-19 vaccines to include exemptions for conscience as well as “natural immunity” and “medical contraindications.”

Those exemptions would not be available to medical students or employees working in children’s hospitals, ICU units or critical care units.

The exemptions would only apply to a business’s existing employees.

As with the conscience exemption, to claim a religious exemption the student or employee would only need to submit a statement to that effect in writing.

Claiming an exemption for natural immunity requires the student or employee to provide written documentation that they’ve been tested for COVID-19 antibodies―and did have antibodies “in an amount at least equal to or greater than those conferred” by a COVID-19 vaccine.

ODH could create rules for how often that individual must be retested for antibodies. In the absence of ODH rules, that individual doesn’t have to be retested.

The individual would bear the costs associated with antibody testing.

HB 435 would also prohibit state, county and municipal public facilities from requiring proof of vaccination before entry.

The bill contains a sunset provision. That is, it would only last in effect until June 30, 2023.

“Let’s first be clear about what House Bill 435 doesn’t do,” Carfagna said. “It neither discourages nor prohibits COVID-19 vaccines, nor bars access to any Ohioan wishing to vaccinate against COVID-19. This legislation does not deal in any way with masking or quarantines. It purely seeks to ensure that Ohioans reluctant to take the COVID-19 shot will not be injected against their will and will not have their jobs, their education, or their access to governmental services jeopardized as a result.”

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