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House Panel Approves Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act

September 28, 2021
Republican Newsroom

COLUMBUS – Most Ohio workers and students would be empowered to refuse mandated COVID-19 vaccinations under legislation approved today by the Ohio House Health Committee.

The legislation would also prohibit any entity from mandating a COVID-19 vaccine that has not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and prohibit government-ordered COVID-19 “vaccine passports.”

House Bill 435, the Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act, was crafted by House Republican leaders following extensive debate in the legislature on COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The measure, sponsored by State Representatives Rick Carfagna and Bill Seitz, is scheduled to be on the House floor Wednesday.

“This bill balances personal medical freedom and protecting the health and safety of Ohioans,” said Carfagna (R-Genoa Township). “It empowers Ohioans by ensuring the availability of COVID-19 vaccine mandate exemptions without compromising the ability to protect the public health.”

The goal, he said, is to ensure Ohioans reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine will not be forced to get a shot against their will and will not have their jobs, education or access to governmental services jeopardized as a result.

Seitz (R-Green Township) called the legislation a fair and reasonable path forward.

“It 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,” he said. 

Under the bill, most public and private sector employees would be able to secure exemptions from employer-mandated FDA approved COVID-19 vaccinations for medical reasons, natural immunity as demonstrated by the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, and reasons of conscience including religious convictions. 

Those same exemptions would also be available for employees and students at Ohio’s public and private schools, colleges and universities.

The bill makes clear that employees and students asserting a religious exemption are not required to provide any additional documentation, other than a written statement claiming the exemption.

The bill’s exemptions would not apply to those employed in a children’s hospital, an intensive care or critical care unit of a hospital, or to any employee who begins employment after the effective date of the bill. 

The bill also:

  • Prohibits any public or private sector employer from mandating any COVID-19 vaccine that has not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Extends provisions from House Bill 606 (133rd General Assembly) that would protect employers from COVID-19 liability under certain circumstances.
  • Provides remedies for employers and employees to enforce provisions in the bill via the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
  • Permits emergency medical technicians that have received proper training to administer COVID-19 tests and collect/label test specimens.