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Do people have the ‘right’ to contract and spread a deadly disease?

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Groups opposed to mandated vaccinations protest on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse, inside the House Health Committee meets to discuss HB 248 which would prohibit mandatory vaccinations and vaccination status disclosures, Tuesday, August 24, 2021. Graham Stokes/Freelance Photographer

From the beginning of the spread of COVID-19, we knew a vaccine would be the most effective tool we would have to stymie its spread, reduce infections, and save lives. While so many things were new about COVID-19, we knew, like with any infectious disease, that vaccine technology would be our best bet for prevention of infection and curbing morbidity and mortality associated with the virus.

But vaccine hesitancy has been brewing for years now. Whether it’s from crunchy yuppie communities trying to shield their children from modern medicine or homeschool fundamentalist households trying to do the same, fringe movements have tried to discredit this technology, largely because people misunderstand the risks involved with it.

These public information problems have bled into the largest public health crisis of the last hundred years. And it is not just fringe groups that are subscribing to vaccine misinformation these days: It is the people crafting policy in our state as well.

Ohio’s House Bill 248, currently in the House Health Committee, proposes law to prohibit basically anyone from requiring any vaccination, not just against COVID-19, and ban anyone from requiring people to tell if they have been vaccinated.

House Bill 253, also in the House Health Committee, proposes a ban on proof of vaccination to enter the state or state buildings.

House Bill 350, currently in the House Civil Justice Committee, proposes a prohibition on people and companies requiring vaccinations or asking for proof of vaccinations.

What is driving these bills? As we have all heard, the FDA has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, meaning the argument of the “dangers” of vaccination are becoming weaker and weaker. With half the population vaccinated at this point and no serious population-level side effects being reported, it is hard to keep up the argument that these vaccines are unsafe because they are untested.

We know they are saving lives. Death rates from COVID-19 have plummeted since vaccinations began and have been consistently low in Ohio for months, even as hospitalization rates have crept up. So whatever reason the policymakers are making for wanting to discourage vaccinations, it seems to be more pressing to them than keeping death rates low.

In addition to being good for public health, vaccination seems to be good for the economy. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce came forth last week to testify in opposition to House Bill 248, saying that employers should have the power to run their workplaces the way that they wish and hinting that less vaccination would be bad for the economy.

Ultimately, there are some reasons that vaccine mandates should not go too far. There are certain people with compromised immune systems who may not be eligible for vaccination. In that case, regular testing may be a better path. But the idea that the public sector should be intervening to make sure that people have “the right” to contract and spread a deadly virus is laughable at best and extremely dangerous at worst. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail and that these fringe ideas don’t come to embarrassingly define public policy in Ohio to the rest of the world.


Rob Moore is the principal for Scioto Analysis, a public policy analysis firm based in Columbus. Moore has worked as an analyst in the public and nonprofit sectors and has analyzed diverse issue areas such as economic development, environment, education, and public health. He holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Denison University.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.


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