Ohio bill would effectively ban public colleges from requiring the coronavirus vaccine

by Emma

Dive Brief:

  • This week, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that effectively prohibits public colleges from requiring that students and employees get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
  • The measure bans public institutions from mandating vaccines that haven’t gotten full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • The FDA has allowed emergency use of all three coronavirus vaccines being administered in the U.S. to make the shots available more quickly during the health crisis.

Dive Insight:

Ohio’s legislation also forbids public colleges from discriminating against individuals who decline to get vaccines that haven’t received full FDA approval. This provision seems to target mitigation strategies schools might require for unvaccinated individuals, such as mandating they wear masks or undergo coronavirus testing.

Ohio bill would effectively ban public colleges from requiring the coronavirus vaccine

The measures don’t apply to healthcare centers owned by higher education institutions.  The bill heads to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, who hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign it. According to a local news report, a spokesperson for his office did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Friday, and the governor refused to discuss the bill at a media briefing on Tuesday.

According to media reports, several Ohio colleges have said they require the vaccine for the fall, although only one, Cleveland State University, is public. A Cleveland State spokesperson noted in an email that the vaccine requirement is only for students living in residence halls. The spokesperson said that the university is aware of the bill, and it will adjust policies accordingly if it becomes law.

According to a count from The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 550 colleges are mandating the vaccine for at least some of their students and employees.

Other states have moved to block colleges from vaccine requirements, either through legislation or executive action. Some have also banned so-called “vaccine passports,” or proof of vaccination.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, issued an executive order barring vaccine mandates at public colleges last month. The state’s legislature included a similar prohibition in its higher education budget bill.

Meanwhile, this week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have prevented public colleges from asking for proof of vaccination, calling the measure “contradictory, misguided and irresponsible.”

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