SCHD Commissioner submits testimony against vaccine choice bill

By Patrick Keck - [email protected]

COLUMBUS — The calls for vaccination, seen by public health experts as the best way to tackle COVID-19, have met resistance from some citizens throughout preceding months. Now, further pushback is coming from the statehouse.

Sitting in the Ohio House Health Committee, House Bill 248 would prevent mandatory vaccinations of all kinds in Ohio and prohibit any public disclosure of whether or not someone has been vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Martin will submit opponent testimony to the committee- sharing it earlier on the SCHD Facebook page.

“I am gravely concerned by this legislation, as it would significantly weaken the robust public health framework that protects us from the devastation of many vaccine-preventable diseases,” reads in part of his statement. “HB 248 does much more than prevent mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, as it would actually apply to ALL vaccinations.”

In his view, this “troubling” legislation would have a multipronged effect to public health where health care costs would skyrocket and lives would be lost.

Martin’s letter reads vaccinations have historically cut off the damages of such diseases as measles and polio. Data he cites from the United Nations Children’s Fund shows more than an estimated 20 million children’s lives worldwide were saved by measles vaccinations between 2000 and 2016.

Global polio cases, on the other hand, have rapidly declined by more than 99.9% since 1988 due largely to vaccinations according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Through vaccinations, we not only provide critical protection for infants, young children and immunocompromised individuals, but we keep ourselves, our families and our neighbors safe,” Martin’s testimony reads. “We have come to take the success of vaccinations for granted as we all benefit from their protection every single day.”

Saving lives is the ultimate priority of vaccines he said, but they also represent a major cost-saver in health care estimates and the overall economy. Through a routine vaccination program of children born between 1994 and 2018, the CDC estimates $406 billion in medical costs and $1.88 trillion in total economic impact.

Initial public hearings have been limited to proponent testimony, where some supporters declared it should be a choice for individuals while others voiced unverified conspiracy theories as to what these vaccines contain – including “magnetic vaccine crystals.”

All this comes when COVID-19 vaccine surpluses have been reported nationally and in Ohio where less than 5 million residents are considered fully vaccinated. Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine asked unvaccinated Ohioans to roll up their sleeves as 200,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines were set to expire.

“For Ohioans who have been waiting to get their vaccine, I urge you to take action now,” he said in a statement. “There are many opportunities throughout the state to get a vaccine.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) is a nurse practitioner and defined herself as “pro-vaccine” in an April press release following the legislation’s introduction. Her legislation she believes would curb discrimination for those that decide to not take the vaccine.

“This is a matter of freedom,” she said, her bill having 15 Republican House co-sponsors. “The purpose of this legislation is to allow people to choose to do what they feel is best for their own body and protect individuals from any consequences or hardships for choosing one way or the other.”

Martin, however, feels all the benefits that vaccines provide have and will lead to life as the public knows it.

“Because of vaccines, we live our daily lives largely safe from many diseases that once spread through the population unchecked,” he concluded. “We cannot afford to risk weakening that protection with HB 248. Vaccinations do not take away our freedoms; vaccinations give us freedom.”

By Patrick Keck

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter. © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter. © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.