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What Ohio's Lawmakers Think About COVID Vaccinations

Mar 30, 2021

Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) gets COVID vaccine in Canton.
Credit Ohio House Democrats

Nearly all of Ohio’s Democratic lawmakers in the Ohio Legislature have already received COVID-19 vaccines or plan to do so in the near future. And most of Ohio’s Republican legislators have or are doing the same. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles reports. 

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) says she and the 34 other Democratic representatives are or will get shots. 

 

“It’s pretty much on brand and in line with what we have been saying for a very long time that the science of vaccinations is to be trusted. It can be trusted. {And we have decided to lead by example and show our constituents and our communities that vaccination is a very good way to get us out of the coronavirus pandemic.}” 

 

Of the 64 Republicans in the Ohio House, twenty responded to my request on where they stood on the vaccines. Of those, only four said they wouldn’t get the vaccine or wouldn’t get it any time soon. Among them – Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout). 

 

Brinkman - “I currently have no intention to get one. I’m just kind of a wait and see.” 

Ingles – “Why are you kind of waiting and seeing here?” 

Brinkman – “Because I’m typically not an early adapter on anything. I don’t go to the first-run movies. I don’t get the first computer. I just don’t do that stuff. {The flu vaccine has been around, some would say 100 years, or at least 80 years, but I didn’t start getting it until about 10-12 years ago.” }

 

Other Republican lawmakers say they will wait until more data is available or until more Ohioans have had an opportunity to get it. Rep. Jeff LaRe says he cannot get it yet because he just had COVID-19. 

 

“I’ve got to wait 90 days {because I just got out of quarantine from having coronavirus}.” 

 

Freshman Republican Ron Ferguson says he’s not getting the shot after a consultation with his doctor. 

 

“I was advised personally in my situation not to get the vaccine.{ It’s not because I’m against the vaccine or anything else. A lot in my family have and both of my grandmothers have. All for it. And this, along with any medical condition, it’s conditional.}” 

 

But there are Republican House members who have already gotten the vaccine. Rep Don Jones (R-Freeport) was among the first. 

 

“I’m still an active EMT on my local volunteer emergency squad so I had the opportunity early so I took advantage of it.” 

 

Freshman Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) says it was the right decision for her because, as a lawmaker, she’s around a lot of people. And she says it allows her to be around some people she misses. 

 

“I want to hug and kiss my grandchildren again.”  

 

New Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) says he’s on the fence when it comes to vaccines.  

 

“I’m definitely considering it and I would call the chance of me getting the vaccine pretty likely.” 

 

Over on the Senate side, all of one of the 8 Democratic Senators have gone on record saying they’ll get the vaccine. Sen. Sandra Williams says she hasn’t decided yet for no particular reason. But there’s no hesitation where Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) is concerned. She has had her first dose of the vaccines.  

 

“Despite my age and despite the fact that I’ve already had COVID twice, it’s people around me that I’m more concerned about.” 

 

Maharath says 50 of her family members have had the illness and some died. Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) says she’s happy she has the option to get a vaccine and resume some sense of normalcy again. 

 

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel so I’m thrilled.” 

 

On the Republican side, there’s a mix of opinions on the vaccine.  Senator Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) says, in a written statement, that she wants to see more data before making the decision. New Senator Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) says he recently had an antibody treatment when he had COVID so he is waiting on the advice of his doctor. 

 

“You cannot have the vaccine for something around 90 days we are told {by the doctors.}” 

 

Steve Huffman is one of two Republican doctors in the Ohio Senate. Huffman says he’s already had his shots. 

 

“Practicing medicine for 25 years, I’ve seen the good things that vaccines can do and so, you know, I believe in the science.” 

 

His fellow Republican, Jay Hottinger, says he also believes in the science so he got the vaccine as soon as he could. 

 

“Of course, there are a kajillion conspiracy theories out there that I don’t adhere to. {The only reservation I had was is it going to be effective and will it do what it needed to do?}” 

 

Those conspiracy theories Hottinger mentions are running rampant in some circles. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows Republican men and supporters of former President Donald Trump are leery of getting the vaccines.  

 

Ohio’s top Republican office holders say they are getting the vaccines. Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted got their shots before news cameras. And some of the state’s top leaders have also posted messages encouraging others to do the same. 

 

But one thing is clear - there’s no appetite among Ohio’s leaders for mandating the vaccine. Republican Rep. Tom Patton has been in the Ohio Legislature since 2003. 

 

“I cannot never imagine that the state of Ohio will ever mandate a shot. We just are not going to do that.”