Friday, July 16, 2021

Coronavirus Update 7–16–2021: Ohio prohibits schools from mandating the Covid vaccine

Ohio currently requires that students receive each of the following vaccines (subject to medical or religious exceptions) as a condition of attending school: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, chickenpox, and meningococcal.

The one vaccine that Ohio schools can no longer mandate as a condition of attendance or participation in activities? The Covid-19 vaccine.

This week, Governor DeWine signed HB 244 into law, which makes it illegal for a public school or state institution of higher education to require an individual to receive a vaccine for which the FDA has not granted full approval (i.e., the Covid-19 vaccine), or to discriminate against an individual who has not received such a vaccine by requiring the individual to refrain from engaging in activities or to take precautions different from those who have received such a vaccine (i.e., unvaccinated students must wear a mask).

Do you know what we don't have in schools anymore? Outbreaks of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, chickenpox, and meningococcal.

Do you know what we absolutely will have in schools this coming fall? Outbreaks of Covid-19.

This law is dangerous. And it's not just Ohio. Consider that Tennesse — which only has a 38 percent fully vaccinated rate and which has seen its seven-day rolling average of new Covid cases increase nearly 600 percent over the past two weeks — just abandoned all vaccine outreach (not just for the Covid vaccine, but for all vaccines) for teens, and fired its top vaccination official because she favors teens receiving the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, thanks to Delta, Covid infection rates have doubled in the past month (and rising), with hospitalization rates also rising. Meanwhile, vaccination rates have slowed to a crawl, with only 48 percent of the country fully vaccinated. We are undoubtedly on the cusp of another Covid surge, with the unvaccinated clearly in the bullseye.

Kids are about to go back to school, and many too many remain unvaccinated. Kids younger than 12 are still ineligible, and for those between the ages of 12 and 17, vaccination rates remain way too low. For this reason, the Delta variant is going to wreak havoc on the 2021 – 22 school year.

Young, unvaccinated people are showing up at hospitals with Covid-19 — in some cases being admitted to the ICU and put on ventilators — in disturbing numbers. For example, Mississippi (in which only one out of three are fully vaccinated), currently has seven children in the ICU because of Covid-19, with two on ventilators.

Thankfully, we know the solution to all of these problems.

1/ The FDA must grant full approval to the Covid-19 vaccine, so that laws like HB 244 no longer apply and so that those who are hesitant to vaccinate themselves and their children because the vaccine only has an emergency use authorization will hopefully hop off their fence to the side of the vaccinated.

2/ The FDA must also approve the vaccine for all school-age children as soon as it possibly can so that everyone attending school has the opportunity to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, according to one FDA official, this approval likely won't arrive until midwinter.

3/ Schools should continue to require masks for the unvaccinated, both to encourage vaccinations and to protect those who are vaccinated from breakthrough infections (which could become more prevalent and more dangerous as Covid continues to evolve and mutate into more virulent variants). For example, see Los Angeles County, which just reinstituted its indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status.

Large crowds, busy bars and restaurants, and scant masks all suggest that most of us are done with Covid. Covid, however, is not yet done with us. We all better wake up and realize this reality before it's too late. Laws banning mandatory Covid vaccines definitely point us in the wrong direction.

* Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash