Nearly 3,900 Ohioans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number since mid-January, when vaccines were a scarce commodity allocated only to the most needy beneficiaries.
During the pandemic, the Ohio Hospital Association’s PAC paid $ 13,000 to Republican lawmakers who co-sponsored legislation to ban vaccination mandates from Ohio hospitals, colleges, and employers. Critics of the legislation, including the OHA, have described it as an attempt to bow to anti-vaccination fervor and undermine public confidence in safe and effective vaccines.
Hospitals are hardly the only ones taking a stand against the legislation, while also funding the campaigns of Republicans who have spent months lobbying politically and holding marathon hearings to pass it.
Ohio House Republicans passed Party Line Bill 218 last month at the height of a new wave of COVID-19 in Ohio – a wave driven by the hyper-transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus and a state that remains on the 10e the least vaccinated in the country.
âOur political contributions support candidates involved in a wide range of hospital and healthcare issues,â said John Palmer, spokesperson for the OHA. âOur decision-making process assesses each candidate individually taking into account various factors, including the totality of the candidate’s work. “
The bill now goes to the Senate, as a new (and possibly worse) variant of the coronavirus emerges and the pandemic nears its second anniversary.
The OHA is a member of the âOhio Vaccine Coalitionâ – a list of 100 companies, healthcare associations, business interest groups, hospital networks and more – which formed in May in opposition to a larger version. of anti-vaccine legislation than what was passed last month.
Another member of the coalition, the Ohio State Medical Association, represents Ohio physicians and identifies itself as the first and largest physician-led organization in Ohio. The OSMA PAC contributed $ 7,600 to the campaigns of lawmakers who sponsored HB 218 between January 2020 and June 2021 (the most recent filing deadline). The PAC of another physician interest group, the Ohio Osteopathic Association, donated an additional $ 2,050 across six sponsors within the same time frame.
âIt is unreasonable to expect policymakers to agree with one person or group 100%,â OOA President Dr Henry L. Wehrum said. “Nonetheless, OOA maintains its strong opposition to vaccine restricting bills, such as HB 218.”
The PAC of the Ohio State Association of Nurse Anesthetists (not a member of the vaccine coalition) paid $ 40,000 to the sponsors of HB 218 between January 2020 and June 2021.
Nursing homes have sheltered residents most at risk and more than 8,000 deaths during the pandemic. The Ohio Health Care Association, Ohio’s most powerful industry lobby group and member of the Vaccine Coalition, paid sponsors of the bill $ 25,000 over the same 18-month period. OHCA executive director Pete Van Runkle said PAC’s decisions are derived from a number of factors, “not on the position of lawmakers in a single issue.”
Another industry lobby group, the Academy of Senior Health Sciences Inc., donated $ 13,000 to Representative Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, a co-sponsor of HB 218.
Supporters of the legislation have rejected the bill’s characterization as “anti-vaccine” and insist it is about “medical freedom” and bodily autonomy. However, the demagogic rhetoric about vaccination weighed on Bill and his predecessors for months. The wording of the bill itself adopts the phrase âgenetic vaccine technologyâ. The House health committee presented testimony this summer from a witness who said vaccines “magnetize” recipients and “interface” with cell phone towers. Rep. Tom Young, R-Washington Twp., Suggested in August that vaccines kill children (they don’t). The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Rodney Creech, of R-West Alexandria, said in an interview that he would not put any “poison” vaccine in his body.
OSMA, OSANA, and the Academy did not respond to inquiries regarding HB 218 or contributions to its sponsors.
Non-healthcare groups follow suit
Some members of the Ohio Vaccine Coalition with less direct ties to the health center have also funded the sponsors of HB 218.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce joined the coalition, and its CEO, former GOP congressman Steve Stivers, has repeatedly spoken out against HB 218. He compared the passage of the bill to “Legislative terrorism” in two media last month, in reference to rumors of an exchange of votes between the draft law on the mandate of vaccines and the ten-year redistribution.
The House gave $ 5,650 to the sponsors of HB 218. Another coalition member, the Ohio Realtors Association, gave more than $ 35,000.
Neither association responded to requests for information.
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