Ohio may prohibit employers from punishing workers who don’t get vaccinated

The latest Georgian to get measles was not vaccinated.
The latest Georgian to get measles was not vaccinated.

Employers, including hospitals, could not punish or fire workers who refuse to be vaccinated against contagious diseases such as the flu, measles or TB, under a bill pending in the Ohio House.

Using his famous name, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well known author and environmentalist, threw his support behind Ohio’s anti-vaccination movement at a Statehouse event on Wednesday. Pending in the Ohio House is a bill to bar employers from mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment.

Support comes from two schools of thought: those leery of the safety and efficacy of vaccinations and those who believe individual rights should be paramount.

Opponents, including pediatricians and hospitals, say it could put vulnerable patients at risk if health care workers go unvaccinated and communicate a life threatening disease.

This is the third time such a bill has been considered in Ohio, according to Melissa Wervey Arnold, CEO of the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Related: Bill would ban employers from punishing workers who don't get flu shot

Last month, Kennedy’s sister, brother and niece published an opinion column saying that he is wrong about vaccines.

“He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines,” they wrote in Politico.

This is not the only vaccination-related bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly.

Related: Ohio may require schools to tell parents how easy it is to skip vaccinations

House Bill 132 would require school districts inform parents of ways to opt out of getting their children vaccinated.

Every student is supposed to have evidence of all required shots, or have submitted an exemption, by 14 days into the school year or they are not allowed to attend. Ohio law, though, allows wide latitude for exemptions, including religious, medical or “reasons of conscience.”

Higher immunization rates lead to better protection for everyone against serious diseases such as whooping cough, measles, mumps and tetanus. Herd immunity refers to the idea that the more people in a community who are immunized, whether by vaccination or by natural immunity, the more protected the entire community is.

Babies who can’t be vaccinated yet, those with compromised immune systems and people with medical exemptions from vaccines rely on herd immunity to protect them.

The state budget bill also will contains a provision to allow private schools to refuse to enroll students who have not been vaccinated due to religious objections. Opponents of vaccines oppose the bill for that provision.