Lawmakers to target vaccine mandates

After months of committee hearings on a controversial proposal to prohibit coronavirus vaccine mandates, Ohio lawmakers appear ready to move forward with a plan to protect people from being forced to get the vaccine by their employer or in the case of college students, no vaccine could be required by their school. It comes after hospitals, universities, businesses, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce asked the General Assembly to dump the bill under consideration, HB 248, and allow employers to mandate vaccines.

Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, who introduced his own vaccine bill this past week, told WHIO-TV that the House leadership is working on a proposal that takes the best of several plans and puts them into one bill.

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“I think leadership is taking all of the good things from all of those bills and is coming together with something that we can all support,” Koehler said. 

His proposal, HB 424, prohibits any public entity like a government agency or a publicly funded school or university from requiring people to get the vaccine. It deals only with government entities and does not cover private business.

Koehler’s bill also extends a previously passed immunity provision that protects first responders and hospital employees from lawsuits over the spread of COVID. That immunity provision currently in state law expires at the end of September.

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Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to oppose any attempt by lawmakers to prohibit businesses, hospitals, or other employers from requiring vaccines. At a statewide briefing Tuesday, DeWine said he supports an employer’s right to issue vaccine mandates for its employees.

“We should not be telling businesses how they should be running their business. If a hospital feels that they want to require everyone to be vaccinated they ought to be able to do it,” DeWine said.

Koehler expects introduction of the new vaccine proposal in the coming week.