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Ohio Legislature Passes Bill to Ban COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates at Schools, Universities

By Isabel van Brugen

June 30, 2021 Updated: June 30, 2021

Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that would ban public schools and universities from requiring students and staff to receive any COVID-19 vaccine that hasn’t received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

House Bill 244, approved on Monday, would also prohibit the institutions from discriminating against an individual who has not received a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Such forms of discrimination would include requiring a person to participate in activities that are different from what a vaccinated person would be required to participate in, according to the bill text (pdf).

It passed along party lines in the Ohio Senate, 24-8, and the Ohio House, 61-34.

None of the vaccines currently being administered in the United States have been fully approved by the FDA to-date. All three are being used under emergency authorization, and it’s unclear when regulators will make a decision. Two of the vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States require two doses.

“The simple fact is that decision needs to be decided by their parents and by their family,” said state Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican, arguing that young adults aren’t as severely impacted by the virus as others.

State Sen. Andrew Brenner, a Republican, argued that college students should be able to independently make the decision.

“This is about personal rights,” he said, reported WKSU. “But it’s also about making sure our students are protected and that parents are making the decisions and college students are making the decisions about their own personal rights.”

The legislation now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk. According to NBC4, DeWine has declined to comment on whether he would veto or sign the bill.

“This is a happy day today, so we’re not going to talk about unhappy things or anything else,” the Republican governor said at a separate bill signing.

The concept of “vaccine passports” has been criticized by civil rights groups and Republicans as a potential invasion of privacy. Several Republican-led states have introduced measures to ban such passports from use. Florida’s Ron DeSantis became the first governor to issue an executive order that barred the use of vaccine passports.

At the time, DeSantis expressed concerns that “vaccination records are private health information,” adding that if a passport is needed to take part in everyday life, such as a sporting event, then such policies would “create two classes of citizens.”

States including Iowa, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Wyoming have followed suit with similar measures banning vaccine passports in certain settings, such as banning the need to show proof of vaccination as a condition to enter an area or to receive a government service, permit, or license.

Last month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced the No Vaccine Passports Act, to “prohibit any federal vaccine passport” system, and is seeking to bar the White House from “doing anything to mandate vaccines.”

“We’re seeing some places where employers are saying ‘if you’re not vaccinated, you’re fired,’ and that ought to be illegal. Your health decisions are yours to make, and it shouldn’t be your boss. It shouldn’t be the government. It shouldn’t be anyone else forcing you to make those decisions,” Cruz told Fox News.

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