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DeWine Signs Bill Banning Schools, Colleges From Mandating COVID-19 Vaccine Under Emergency Use

Dan Konik

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has signed a bill into law that prohibits public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities from requiring people to get a vaccine if that vaccine does not have "full approval" by the Food and Drug Administration.

This applies to the COVID-19 vaccine, which has been approved by the FDA through Emergency Use Authorization. That still requires "rigorous testing" and clinical trials.

The provisions which were added as amendments to HB244, say a public school or state institution of higher education shall not require an individual to receive a vaccine that has not been granted full approval from the FDA. 

The measure adds that those schools cannot "discriminate" against an individual who has not received the vaccine. Under the bill, discrimination includes "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."

On Tuesday, DeWine said he was not ready to discuss his decision on the bill but said the FDA's emergency use authorization label for the COVID-19 vaccine is leading to hesitancy. 

"It is past time for the FDA to take into account that hundreds of millions of people have received these vaccines and to move it from an emergency basis over to a regular basis," DeWine said. "I would just plead with them to do that. It's very, very important, lives are frankly at stake. If they will do that, it won't convince everybody, but there are people out there we know who will be convinced if that's done." 

The move for the bill to become a law also approves the original intent of the legislation which was to help the transition for kids in military families from one school to another. If a K-12 student is moving to Ohio, they will be able to enroll in their new Ohio-based school before they officially move and participate in virtual learning. If that student is moving out of Ohio, they can remain in their original school district until they enroll in their new out-of-state school. 

Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) proposed the amendment to ban public schools from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine on the Senate floor June 28. Brenner said the urgency came down to timing on the issue, saying he wanted the legislature to make the proposal law before the new school year. 

After the amendment was added to the bill and passed, Senate Democrats issued a statement calling for DeWine to veto the legislation. 

“It is unfortunate that critical legislation to support our military families was tainted by last-minute amendments that will put the lives of Ohioans in danger. We strongly feel that such major policy changes, particularly those directly impacting our children and teachers, deserve thoughtful consideration,” the Senate Democrats stated in a letter to DeWine, adding the provisions on discrimination would stop schools from mandating masks for people who are not vaccinated.

The amendment on vaccines does not apply to hospitals or health care facilities that are owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a university or college.