There is something deeply unsettling about the recent article “Informed Consent, Medical Freedom at Stake.” My concern is that “freedom” seems to be trumping “responsibility” as recent legislation seems to be undermining Ohio’s public health framework intended to protect all of us — particularly during an unprecedented pandemic.
I would like to remind readers that in March 2021, a majority of Ohio legislators voted to override the governor’s veto of their previously passed SB 22 which allows them to strike down public health orders. The Ohio Legislature is a political body and should not be in the business of “second guessing” emergency and health-related orders issued by the governor. Given political factors and a lack of expertise in epidemiology and related areas, perhaps our legislators need to assume a more “hands off” position on matters of public health. Yet our local legislators Jena Powell, Susan Manchester, Steve Huffman, and Matt Huffman voted in favor of this measure. Currently, the Ohio Department of Health website lists 929,956 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20,344 Ohio resident deaths.
Now we have the introduction of special interest legislation (H.B. 248) with an apparent intent to limit the effectiveness of vaccination programs under the guise of “personal freedom.” I do not dispute the rights of individuals to refuse to be vaccinated. However the vaccination rate of those employed in hospitals, day-care, nursing homes, and other medical facilities is of great concern to me as a consumer and as a health-conscious individual! The originally proposed language in this bill would prohibit any of these institutions from mandating, incentivizing, or otherwise requesting their employees, customer or students get vaccinated: businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, colleges, day-care centers, and insurers. In addition the bill prohibits a person from mandating, requiring, or otherwise requesting that an individual receive a vaccine. It compels public schools, which already accept exemptions for non-medical and medical reasons to emphasize vaccine exemptions “in the same timing and manner, including text size and font, as it provides notice of the requirements.” Additionally it blocks businesses from separating patrons by vaccination status or asking whether they’ve been vaccinated. A coalition of businesses and medical groups has issued a public letter warning of the negative effects of this legislation.
State Rep. Jennifer Gross, the bill’s lead sponsor, has been quoted as saying, “This is not a scientific bill. This is a freedom bill.” Perhaps we need a “responsibility bill” but perhaps not. Here we have one more special interest bill that threatens Ohio’s public health network and the health of Ohioans. We can be more responsible by writing our legislators and telling them to stop politicizing public health! Should such legislation continue, then contact them in opposition again and remember not to vote for them when they next run for office.