COLUMBUS – Public schools and universities could not require students or employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under last-minute changes to a bill the Ohio Senate passed on Monday.
Under the proposed changes, public schools and universities could not require vaccines that have not received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This includes the three COVID-19 vaccines distributed in America, all of which have been approved through emergency use authorization, which is a rigorous process that includes clinical trials.
âParents, in consultation with their personal physicians, have the right to make decisions about their children, especially for vaccinations that are not fully approved by the FDA,â said Senator Andrew Brenner, R-Powell. “These are personal rights.”
The bill would not apply to public hospitals, such as the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, or to private schools and universities.
Another amendment proposed by Senator Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, would require people coming from countries designated as the highest risk by the CDC to self-quarantine for up to 48 hours. While in quarantine, their food, transportation and accommodation would be paid for by the Ohio Department of Health.
Democrats opposed new additions to House Bill 244, which initially made it easier for children of military families to enroll in school. Amendments and bill passed along party lines: 24-8.
Senator Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, said the amendments were not based on science and pointed out that Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, opposes restrictions on access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
âHe understands that the vaccine saves lives and should not be politicized,â Fedor said. âUnfortunately, this pandemic has become the most politicized part of my political career.â
The vote came hours before Cincinnati public schools plan to discuss and possibly vote on a policy requiring staff members to get vaccinated before fall. Cleveland State University will require students living in dorms this fall to be vaccinated, with medical or religious exemptions. Most of Ohio’s public universities have said they won’t need the vaccine.
The changes would require House approval before going to DeWine’s office. DeWine criticized efforts to restrict access to COVID-19 vaccines or restrict companies’ ability to maintain safe workplaces.
The last minute additions are the latest in a push against vaccination mandates in schools and businesses. The Ohio House passed changes last week that would ban public and private employers from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine. It hasn’t budged in the Ohio Senate.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.