COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers have introduced a bill aimed at protecting individuals who decline vaccines from discrimination.
House Bill 248, also titled the Vaccine Choice & Anti-Discrimination Act, was introduced by Representative Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) on Tuesday, April 6, and is co-sponsored by 15 lawmakers, including Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria).
The bill states that if an individual is required to be vaccinated by a person, political subdivision, public official or state agency, said individual can decline a vaccine by submitting a written statement or verbally declaring their intent to refuse the vaccine.
The statement or declaration of refusal must cite either medical contraindications, natural immunity or reasons of conscience, including religious convictions.
“There are eleven and a half million people in Ohio,” Rep. Gross said. “Many people across the state may be likely to decline vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine for conscientious, religious, or medical reasons. Without the exemption provisions this bill provides, the notion of a vaccine passport could easily lead to a class system in Ohio where segregation and discrimination will proliferate.”
Once the statement or declaration has been submitted to the appropriate parties, the bill states an individual may not be discriminated against, denied service or access, segregated, require a facial covering or other vaccination status, or be otherwise penalized financially or socially for declining a vaccine.
Additionally, an individual’s vaccination exemption status cannot be disclosed or otherwise made public.
“This country was founded upon freedom and liberty, and not government mandates and the government telling people what to do,” Rep. Creech said to WHIO. “What this bill is going to do is it’s going to allow people to do what they believe in and not be discriminated against.”
Gross also noted that the constitution grants U.S. citizens the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and said the life of an individual should be in the hands of the individual.
“As legislators, we have a responsibility to protect our citizens from government overreach and prohibit practices in the private sector that subject Ohioans to discrimination when going about their daily lives,” Rep. Gross said.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, over three million people have received the COVID-19 vaccine thus far.
“Let everybody else make their choice and if people choose not to get it, it’s their right. It’s their body,” Rep. Creech said.
HB 248 now awaits referral to a House committee.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles