COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine is faced with a key decision after lawmakers approved a bill early Tuesday morning that would ban public schools and universities from requiring a vaccine that has not received full authorization.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Mike DeWine declined to comment Tuesday on a bill that would ban COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools
- Four Ohio colleges have said they will require COVID-19 vaccination
- The amended version of House Bill 244 passed 25 to 8 in the Ohio Senate Monday evening and 61 to 34 in the Ohio House on Tuesday
State Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) introduced the provision in an amendment Monday afternoon to House Bill 244, which regards education for military families. Lawmakers approved the amendment and sent the bill to the governor.
The governor took a question about his decision Tuesday morning during a media availability as he was signing legislation that distributes American Rescue Plan funding.
"This is a happy day today, so we're not going to talk about unhappy things or anything else," DeWine said when asked about the vaccine bill.
The governor said he was opting to decline to comment any further at this time.
Four Ohio colleges have said they will require COVID-19 vaccination. Among them, Cleveland State University is the only public school.
Most K-12 districts in Ohio do not have vaccine requirements for COVID-19 at this point in time.
In the most high-profile case of a district considering a vaccine requirement, Cincinnati Public Schools’ board of education opted Monday to defer a decision on a requirement for employees until the matter can have further consideration by a committee.
The three COVID-19 vaccines approved have emergency use authorization, but they do not yet have full authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The amended version of House Bill 244 passed 25 to 8 in the Ohio Senate Monday evening and 61 to 34 in the Ohio House on Tuesday.
The amendment prevents schools from discriminating between students based on vaccination status. It has exceptions for hospitals operated by academic institutions.
A broader bill that would block all public and private entities in Ohio from requiring vaccines lacking full authorization was passed by the House on Thursday.
Brenner said Monday he hopes to get legislation through on this issue that will apply to all Ohioans, but he said the narrow version focused on schools had to be the priority due to the timing with lawmakers breaking for recess until after school resumes.
Democrats in the minority spoke in opposition to the bill, including Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) who called the amendment “an attack on our vaccination efforts here in the state of Ohio” during remarks in the late-night session, urging nonconcurrence.
“The COVID vaccine is safe, and every single time that this body and this legislature puts amendments and language limiting the ability of institutions to respond responsibly by either requiring vaccines or mitigating the spread, we undermine faith in our vaccination efforts, we validate the dangerous misinformation propagated by anti-vaccine groups and we put the lives of children and vulnerable adults at risk,” Russo said.
Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) responded and expressed support for the amendment.
“This COVID-19 [vaccine] is not fully approved by the FDA, so until then, we don't want to subject our children to that,” he said.