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Reps. Russo and Liston issue statements after House Health Committee hearing riddled with anti-vaccine misinformation

Say policies should be based on science, not fear and falsehoods
May 25, 2021
C. Allison Russo News

COLUMBUS—State Reps. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Beth Liston (D-Dublin) issued statements today after proponent testimony was held before the Health Committee for House Bill (HB) 248, anti-vaccine legislation that would prohibit schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and all other employers from requiring or requesting that employees get any vaccine. HB 248 would also prohibit colleges and universities from requiring that students living on-campus disclose their vaccination status and forbid private businesses from requiring that customers receive any vaccine.

“This bill is incredibly expansive and ignores the protections already in place in Ohio law that allow individuals to decline vaccinations for medical, religious, and reasons of conscience. In reality, this legislation is based on fear and misinformation and would hinder the ability of our hospitals and long-term care facilities to protect our most vulnerable citizens from contagious and deadly diseases. Supporters call it a ‘medical freedom’ bill, but as written, this legislation denies the freedom of businesses and employers to protect their workers and customers from diseases we know can be primarily prevented with vaccines,” said Rep. Russo.  

“This is a dangerous bill that will lead to death. Not only would it prevent schools, businesses, and communities from putting safety measures in place related to COVID-19, it would impact the health of our children. This bill applies to all vaccines — polio, measles, meningitis, etc. If it becomes law, we will see worsening measles outbreaks, meningitis in the dorms, and children once again suffering from polio,” said Rep. Liston.

Proponents of HB 248 made a number of false, inaccurate and misleading claims about the virus and supposed dangers from the vaccine that have been refuted by the CDC and other leading epidemiologists. There were also comparisons made between masks, health orders and vaccinations to slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.

Despite repeated statements over the years from the Anti-Defamation League asking that anti-vaccine advocates stop comparing vaccinations to the Holocaust, supporters of HB 248 have compared requiring proof of vaccination to yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

Leaders in the healthcare industry have noted that HB 248 conflicts with federal guidelines requiring that nursing homes and assisted living facilities provide greater freedoms to fully vaccinated staff and residents.  Additionally, almost 60 organizations signed a letter to the Ohio House Health Committee in strong opposition to HB 248, stating that “if passed, this legislation has the potential to reverse decades of immunity from life-threatening, but vaccine-preventable diseases.”  These organizations include medical, physician, nurses, coroners, and hospital associations; children’s organizations; superintendents’ associations; health plans; the Ohio Chamber of Commerce; the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants; and the Ohio Business Roundtable.