State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Ranking Member on the House Commerce and Labor Committee, issued a statement today after an informal hearing on House Bill (HB) 435, anti-vaccine legislation that would broadly expand exemptions for students and public or private employees required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. HB 435 would also grant corporations partial legal immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits.
“Today I heard comments from Republican committee members that they fear losing Ohio workers because of vaccine mandates. This is the same radical right-wing conservative party that wants to cut unemployment benefits because there are too many job opportunities available right now. These are the politicians that still think COVID-19, which has killed over 700,000 Americans, is just as bad as the flu. Young people are already leaving this state, and I can promise you it isn’t because of the vaccine. It’s because they are sick and tired of the Majority party’s constant pandering to conspiracy theorists who are determined to undermine the public’s trust in a scientifically proven, effective vaccine,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan.
“Instead of hearing testimony on bills that would improve the quality of life for all Ohioans, we gave more of our valuable time and attention to something strongly opposed by our healthcare workers and job creators. Our constituents are rightfully worried about their children getting sick and staying in school, having a safe workplace, and just being able to get back to normal. They want an end to this pandemic. We are never going to get there so long as the Republican leadership in the Ohio House is giving a microphone to these fringe views.”
HB 435 comes as Ohio hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, leading some hospitals to go under EMS bypass alerts or delay elective surgeries. Ohio hospitals have also had to turn down requests from southern states that are flooded with COVID-19 patients. The Ohio Vaccine Coalition, which represents more than 100 businesses and health care groups, has stated they oppose HB 435.
HB 435 was passed out of the House Health Committee along party lines with no opportunity for proponent, opponent, or interested party testimony. Recent House Health Committee hearings on anti-vaccine legislation have been riddled with misinformation and conspiracy theories. The hearings even received national media coverage after a proponent of HB 248 claimed vaccinated people become “magnetized.”
The bill is still awaiting formal referral to the Commerce and Labor Committee, where Rep. Lepore-Hagan fears it may be amended to more closely resemble the extreme provisions of HB 248.