Vaccine mandate opponents are taking another shot at ending certain requirements

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Opponents of vaccine mandates are taking on a new fight in the Ohio Statehouse after other pieces of priority legislation failed to pass out of the legislature.

Vaccine mandate opponents pray over Republican Rep. Jennifer Gross at Ohio Statehouse
Vaccine mandate opponents pray over Republican Rep. Jennifer Gross at Ohio Statehouse. [Jo Ingles | Statehouse News Bureau]
A new bill, HB679, would do away with incentives or penalties for businesses that are based on requiring their employees to get vaccinated.

Under the bill, health insurers wouldn’t be able to give better rates to companies who require employees to get vaccines and governments or health departments wouldn’t be able to punish companies that don’t require employees to get vaccines.

Businesses requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccines might not be making as much news these days but Stephanie Stock, president of Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom, said people are still being discriminated against due to their vaccination status.

Stock said this bill would take the pressure off businesses to feel like they have to put mandates in place.

“Having financial incentives and penalties coming from insurance companies, health agencies and the government – it actually infringes on the free market because now you are having an influence on the business owner and their decision making for their business,” Stock said.

Around this time last year, opponents of vaccine mandates were protesting at the Ohio Statehouse, applying pressure on lawmakers to pass a bill that would do away with vaccine mandates in the public and private sector.

As government and private businesses lifted their COVID-19 regulations, the push to do away with them softened. The major bill that vaccine opponents supported, HB248, in 2021 stalled in the Ohio Legislature. Another bill that created broad exemptions for vaccine mandates, HB218, passed the House and now sits in the Senate.

At this point, HB679 has less than a dozen sponsors. Some of the Republican co-sponsors of HB248 last year are backing this effort now.

The bill is called the Medical Discrimination Business Protection Act. It also says vaccine status of employees cannot affect the accreditation or licensure of a business. It has language that would ensure a business is not held liable for any outbreak of a communicable or infectious illness or disease, other than a foodborne illness or disease, that may be considered a vaccine-preventable disease.

Many businesses have been relaxing their COVID-19 rules in recent months as the CDC and governments have pulled back on mandates. But Stock said vaccine mandates are still an issue.

A coalition of businesses, medical professionals, and health care organizations was created last year to counter bills that sought to roll back the ability for private companies to enact vaccine mandates. Those organizations said businesses should be allowed to decide if a vaccine requirement is the right move for their company. Health care groups have consistently touted the importance of vaccinations against communicable diseases.

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