Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill Wednesday that prevents public schools and universities from requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In an amendment added to House Bill 244, public schools and institutions of higher education in Ohio are prohibited from requiring individuals to receive vaccines that have not been granted full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. Currently, the major COVID-19 vaccine producers — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — have only been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA.
An additional amendment to the bill provides protections for unvaccinated individuals from unequal treatment based on their vaccination statuses. According to the bill, public schools and universities may not require unvaccinated students to follow health precautions or participate in activities that differ from their vaccinated peers.
Currently, Ohio University has different expectations for fully-vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, although the university has never required a COVID-19 vaccine for students, faculty or staff.
Those who are fully-vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks or physically distance in non-classroom settings. Vaccinated individuals also have the ability to opt out of the university’s asymptomatic COVID-19 testing through the Testing Pathway Program by selecting the Vaccination Pathway, according to a previous Post report.
According to the same report, unvaccinated individuals are still required to complete weekly asymptomatic testing, wear masks and maintain a six-foot physical distance when indoors.
Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said the law will not go into effect for another 90 days, and the university will continue to encourage students to get vaccinated and require selection of a testing pathway for all students, faculty and staff in the meantime. She also said OU will be working on plans to update its testing strategy in anticipation of the law taking effect.
Recently, OU announced plans that it hopes will provide students with more incentive to get the COVID-19 vaccine, offering a VIP ride in the 2021 Homecoming Parade, a semester’s worth of in-state tuition and more in a five-week prize drawing, according to a previous Post report.
“While Ohio University has never required the COVID-19 vaccination, we know that, together, we could prevent nearly all sickness and quarantine on our campuses if most of our University community were vaccinated,” Leatherwood said in an email. “We are also hopeful that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccinations will soon receive full FDA approval, which could be helpful in resolving vaccination hesitancy.”
With DeWine’s approval, the bill also makes it easier for students from military families to engage in online learning should their families experience a move as a result of military involvement. Students moving to Ohio may attend school in a virtual format before their move takes place and students moving out of Ohio may attend their original school virtually until they are officially enrolled at another out-of-state school.