Ohio governor Mike DeWine clashes with GOP lawmakers over vaccination policy

GOP Governor Mike DeWine aims to convince Ohioans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 through PSAs, press appearances with doctors, and even by launching an outrageous $ 1 million lottery for vaccinated residents.

He said the facts about vaccines, credited with saving millions of lives and eradicating smallpox from the earth, will prevail.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the General Assembly are pushing for sweeping legislation to weaken Ohio vaccination laws – for all vaccines, not just COVID-19. On Tuesday, anti-vaccination activists huddled in the House Health Committee hearing room to testify in support of House Bill 248.

The legislation would prohibit vaccine requirements for customers, employees, or students from businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, K-12 schools, colleges, day care centers, or others. It would also prevent governments, insurers, or corporations from incentivizing people to be vaccinated, or even requesting people to be vaccinated.

In interviews, public health experts warned that legislation would keep the door open for the spread of infectious diseases among Ohioans.

Under the bill, a small business owned by asthmatics or cancer survivors, both at higher risk for serious COVID-19 complications, would have no legal right to require, or even require, vaccination of employees or customers. That’s what Dorit Reiss, a professor specializing in vaccination policy at UC Hastings College of Law, says.

“It’s against business rights, it’s against the individual rights of private companies, it’s against security, and it supports the virus,” she said.

On Wednesday, state officials will announce the first of five winners of a $ 1 million lottery for vaccinated adults and a college scholarship lottery for vaccinated minors. Four more from each lottery are planned for the next four weeks.

DeWine set up the sweepstakes to encourage Ohioans to pursue a socially desirable goal of herd immunity, rather than a mandate to achieve the required level of vaccine coverage. He recently traversed the state holding media events at mass vaccination sites urging Ohioans to get vaccinated.

The political dynamic is a tug of war with DeWine foregoing incentives while its Republicans try to kill its incentives and legally prevent mandates.

Since its May 12 announcement, the lottery has partially reversed the trend of falling demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in the state. Only 44% of Ohioans have started vaccines compared to about 49% across the country. But it’s not just COVID-19: State and state data shows that vaccination rates for children in Ohio fell across the board between 2010 and 2017.

For example, around 94% of children in Ohio were vaccinated against measles in 2010. By 2017, that number had dropped to 88%.

Ohio is one of only 15 states that allow non-medical (religious or philosophical) exemptions from school vaccination laws. HB 248 would expand this further and force schools to expressly inform parents about the exemption. A similar calculation from 2019 for this purpose failed.

James Colgrove, a professor at Columbia University who has authored several books on vaccine policy and public health, said the implications of laws like HB 248 are simple.

“The easier a state makes it to unsubscribe, the more parents will unsubscribe,” he said. “The more parents who decide against it, the greater the likelihood that vaccine-preventable diseases will break out. It’s pretty intuitive. “

Despite his pro-vaccination tone, DeWine avoided giving a substantive answer on Monday when asked about HB 248 or a separate suggestion to remove the “conscience” exemption from school vaccination laws.

He also directs a general assembly dominated by Republicans who have demonstrated their willingness and ability to override his veto on pandemic policy. and competition in a gubernatorial elementary school in a Republican party that recently took a controversial stance on vaccination.

Pandemic policy

House Bill 248 would not exist in a vacuum; It would intertwine with pre-existing weak vaccination requirements for schools and recent laws that skewed the Ohio Department of Health’s pandemic power.

This legislation, due to come into effect next month, prohibits health officials from quarantining or isolating people who have not been “medically exposed” to any disease. It would also allow lawmakers to vote on public health orders without the governor’s approval.

Experts said the next pandemic (and there will be another pandemic) could be a virus that is more deadly or transmissible than COVID-19. Or, as with COVID-19, officials may not be able to medically diagnose the emerging disease and therefore cannot issue quarantine or isolation orders to limit its spread.

“When you put all of these provisions together, you think that with the next epidemic there could be a really serious impact on the soil that could be very different from Covid,” said Jill Krueger, the network’s regional director for public health law.

“Maybe it’s not respiratory, maybe it’s food, water, and vector-based.”

Reiss gave a similar opinion.

“The fact that these are the laws now leaves Ohio in a position where bankruptcy is not as responsive to the pandemic and you will lose precious time that can make a difference, a dramatic difference between life and life Death, ”she said.

Health groups oppose it

The Ohio Association of Health Plans, which represents health insurers in Ohio, issued a statement Tuesday against the bill.

“HB 248 would put all Ohioans at risk while increasing health care costs for families, individuals and businesses,” said spokesman Dan Williamson. “This proposal applies to all vaccinations, including vaccines for children. If passed, this legislation could undo decades of immunity to life-threatening but vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, hepatitis, meningitis and tuberculosis. “

The bill would particularly harm the insurers, as they would no longer be able to demand vaccinations in the customer pool or to create incentives for the costs of which they pay for health care.

On Tuesday, the Ohio Vaccine Coalition – a consortium of hospitals, insurers, public health and corporate groups – announced their opposition to legislation aimed at undoing decades of advances in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“At its core, this proposal would destroy our current public health framework, which prevents potentially deadly disease outbreaks, threatens the stability of our economies when it recovers from a devastating pandemic, and jeopardizes the way we live, learn work and celebrate life. The coalition said in a statement.

Two Democrats on the committee issued statements Tuesday also criticizing the bill.

“This legislation is fear and misinformation and would affect the ability of our hospitals and long-term care facilities to protect our most vulnerable citizens from contagious and deadly diseases,” said Allison Russo, Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington.

The House Health Committee held its second hearing on the bill on Tuesday. A proponent of the bill, a black woman, condemned the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated people as “medical apartheid”. The language echoes comments made last week by Rep. Jennifer Gross, who sponsored the bill and compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.

On Wednesday, Senator Andrew Brenner, who himself promised not to convert Ohio State Health Director into Nazi Germany last summer, is due to propose similar bills to a Senate committee.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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