Sixteen Republican state lawmakers have backed a bill that would bar discrimination against Ohio residents who have not received the coronavirus vaccine.
The bill, known as House bill 248, was introduced by Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-52-West Chester) on Tuesday. The Vaccine Choice & Anti-Discrimination Act protects those who decline any vaccine from discrimination by “all entities in the state of Ohio.”
“There are eleven and a half million people in Ohio,” Gross said in a statement. “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.”
Gross noted that, as a nurse practitioner, she supports the use of vaccines .
COVID-19 vaccinations have become increasingly available in Ohio, with residents ages 16 years old and older becoming eligible to receive the vaccine on March 29. Nearly 4 million residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, totaling more than 33 percent of Ohians, according to data form the Ohio Department of Health.
Republicans have previously moved to prevent discrimination based on vaccine status.
Last week, Rep. Al Cutrona (R-59-Canfield) announced that he plans to introduce legislation that would ban vaccine “passports” in the state.
“Ohioans are encouraged to take the COVID-19 vaccine for the health and well-being of themselves and others,” Cutrona said in a statement last week. “However, a vaccine should not be mandated or required by our government for our people to integrate back to a sense of normalcy. We’ve had restrictions on our freedoms for over a year and more restrictions or mandates are not the answer to every issue related to COVID-19.”
Gross echoed Cutrona’s sentiments on freedoms, saying that legislators “have a responsibility to protect our citizens from government overreach.”
“This is a matter of freedom,” Gross said. “The purpose of this legislation is to allow people to choose to do what they feel is best for their own body and protect individuals from any consequences or hardships for choosing one way or the other.”
Gross’s legislation can be tracked here.
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