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Public Universities In Ohio Banned From Requiring Covid-19 Vaccines

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at January 1, 1970

Public universities in Ohio will not be allowed to require Covid-19 vaccines, which currently have emergency use authorization, for students and employees until the vaccines are granted full approval by the FDA, per a new state law.

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Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 244 on July 14, which prohibits public schools and state institutions of higher education from mandating vaccines that have not received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. It also states that these institutions cannot discriminate against those who have not received a vaccine that has not been fully approved, “including by requiring the individual to engage in or refrain from engaging in activities or precautions that differ from the activities or precautions of an individual who has received such a vaccine.”

Currently, the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are authorized for emergency use. Dan Tierney, press secretary for the governor’s office, says, “We are confident that these vaccines, proven repeatedly to be very safe and very effective, will be approved by the FDA, thus rendering this issue moot.” The law takes effect Oct. 13.

Republican State Sen. Andrew Brenner attached the provision regarding vaccines as an amendment to a March 2021 bill about enhancing educational opportunities for children in military families. The bill passed in the House just before summer recess. 

“By prohibiting our educational institutions from requiring vaccines that are not fully approved by the FDA, we are ensuring that safety is at the forefront of our priorities,” Republican Rep. Brian Lampton, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. The bill was also sponsored by Republican Rep. Andrea White and co-sponsored by 50 state representatives and 14 senators.

Members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus urged DeWine to veto the bill, writing that they “fear prohibiting public schools and universities from being able to require masks and institute other policies for those who have not been vaccinated will jeopardize public health during future outbreaks.” Sen. Kenny Yuko, leader of the caucus, tweeted that he is disappointed by the governor’s decision. “Vaccines are safe and effective. They have saved American lives and have allowed us to make so much progress against Covid-19, but we need to remain vigilant. This is not the time to let our guard down,” he wrote.

There are 13 public universities in Ohio serving over 276,000 students, including Bowling Green State University, Kent State University and the University of Cincinnati, which did not previously issue mandates, but strongly encourage vaccination. On July 13, Miami University announced that it is implementing an incentive program for students to win prizes like a credit for a semester of in-state tuition and fees, $5,000 cash or a laptop. Ohio University also announced July 14 that it is also offering an incentive program for those who get vaccinated. 

Prior to the law, Cleveland State University, another public university, said that it would require students living on campus to receive the vaccine. Alison Bibb-Carson, executive director of marketing and communications at the university, says that the requirement will remain in effect for the start of the fall semester, and that the “university is preparing to fully comply with the new law when it takes effect in October.”

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Private colleges in the state, including Kenyon College, The College of Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan University have implemented vaccine mandates. These schools are not impacted by the law.

Rep. Allison Russo, a ranking member of the State House Health Committee, says this decision is just “one more nod to vaccine conspiracists and misinformation” and that the bill “further undermines trust in science and a vaccine that has saved the lives of thousands of Ohioans,” especially as the Delta variant is causing increased cases and hospitalizations in the state. As of July 16, approximately 48% of Ohio residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Approximately 40% of individuals in the 20–29 age group have received at least one dose.

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