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What Ohio's Lawmakers Think About COVID Vaccinations

Nearly all of Ohio’s Democratic lawmakers in the Ohio Legislature have already received COVID-19 vaccines or plan to do so in the near future. And most of Ohio’s Republican legislators have or are doing the same. 

Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) says she and the 34 other Democratic representatives are or will get shots. 

“It’s pretty much on brand and in line with what we have been saying for a very long time that the science of vaccinations is to be trusted. It can be trusted. And we have decided to lead by example and show our constituents and our communities that vaccination is a very good way to get us out of the coronavirus pandemic," Sykes says.

Of the 64 Republicans in the Ohio House, 20 responded to the request to explains where they stood on the vaccines. Of those, only four said they wouldn’t get the vaccine or wouldn’t get it any time soon. Among them – Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout). 

“I currently have no intention to get one. I’m just kind of a wait and see," Brinkman says. He continues, “Because I’m typically not an early adapter on anything. I don’t go to the first-run movies. I don’t get the first computer. I just don’t do that stuff. The flu vaccine has been around, some would say 100 years, or at least 80 years, but I didn’t start getting it until about 10-12 years ago."

Credit Dan Konik

Other Republican lawmakers say they will wait until more data is available or until more Ohioans have had an opportunity to get it. Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Columbus) says he cannot get it yet because he just had COVID-19. 

“I’ve got to wait 90 days because I just got out of quarantine from having coronavirus,” LaRe says.

Freshman Republican Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) says he’s not getting the shot after a consultation with his doctor. 

“I was advised personally in my situation not to get the vaccine. It’s not because I’m against the vaccine or anything else. A lot in my family have and both of my grandmothers have. All for it. And this, along with any medical condition, it’s conditional,” Ferguson says.

Fellow Republican Representative Tom Young (R-Washington Township) has also had COVID. But he sees the vaccine as a way to double his protection.

“You know the science is behind the vaccine so it doesn’t really bother me. I don’t have some big conspiracy theory against vaccination and I trust science and doctors and I think it’s probably just a good practice to get it for my own personal health," Young says.

There are Republican House members who have already gotten the vaccine. Rep Don Jones (R-Freeport) was among the first. 

“I’m still an active EMT on my local volunteer emergency squad so I had the opportunity early so I took advantage of it," Jones says.

Freshman Rep. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) says it was the right decision for her because, as a lawmaker, she’s around a lot of people. And she says it allows her to be around some people she misses. 

“I want to hug and kiss my grandchildren again," Ray says. 

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) has had her vaccines too.

“I think we should be personally responsible for ourselves and this virus has certainly set us back as a nation, and as a state and as a local community," Schmidt says.

Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport) has a similar reason for getting the vaccines.

“I do believe in the process and I think it’s a great step towards optimism and and confidence in our economy and system by getting the vaccine," Holmes says.

New Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) says he’s on the fence when it comes to vaccines.  

“I’m definitely considering it and I would call the chance of me getting the vaccine pretty likely," Bird says. 

Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) after receiving his COVID vaccine recently
Credit Sen. Hearcel Craig
Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) after receiving his COVID vaccine recently

Over on the Senate side, all but one of the eight Democratic Senators have gone on record saying they’ll get the vaccine. Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) says she hasn’t decided yet due to the fact that she has an autoimmune disease. But there’s no hesitation where Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) is concerned. The 30 year old has had her first dose of the vaccines.  

“Despite my age and despite the fact that I’ve already had COVID twice, it’s people around me that I’m more concerned about," Maharath says.

Maharath says 50 of her family members have had the illness and some died. Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) says she’s happy she has the option to get a vaccine and resume some sense of normalcy again. 

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel so I’m thrilled," Fedor says.

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (Richmond Heights) gets his COVID vaccine
Credit Facebook
Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (Richmond Heights) gets his COVID vaccine

On the Republican side, there’s a mix of opinions on the vaccine.  Senator Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) says, in a written statement, that she wants to see more data before making the decision. New Senator Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) says he recently had an antibody treatment when he had COVID so he is waiting on the advice of his doctor. 

“You cannot have the vaccine for something around 90 days we are told by the doctors," Cirino says. 

But Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) says he chose to get the vaccine because he has co-morbidities that could make it difficult for him if he were to get COVID .

“You know the numbers show you are much safer to be vaccinated than not to be vaccinated so for me, there’s no question but to get the vaccination," Hackett says.

Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) is one of two Republican doctors in the Ohio Senate. Huffman says he’s already had his shots. 

“Practicing medicine for 25 years, I’ve seen the good things that vaccines can do and so, you know, I believe in the science," Huffman says.

His fellow Republican, Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), says he also believes in the science so he got the vaccine as soon as he could. 

“Of course, there are a kajillion conspiracy theories out there that I don’t adhere to. The only reservation I had was is it going to be effective and will it do what it needed to do?,” Hottinger says.

Those conspiracy theories Hottinger mentions are running rampant in some circles. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows Republican men and supporters of former President Donald Trump are leery of getting the vaccines.  

Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Township) says he’s not buying the conspiracy theories either.

“You know the science is behind the vaccine so it doesn’t really bother me. I don’t have some big conspiracy theory against vaccination and I trust science and doctors and I think it’s probably just a good practice to get it for my own personal health," Young says.

-Lt. Governor @JonHusted on receiving his COVID vaccine today from @HealthWCHD nurse Tammy Riegsecker.— Lt. Governor Jon Husted (@LtGovHusted) March 11, 2021

Ohio’s top Republican office holders say they are getting the vaccines. Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted got their shots before news cameras. And some of the state’s top leaders have also posted messages encouraging others to do the same. 

Sen Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) says he’ll get the vaccines because he thinks it's an important tool for preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19.

“I have historically gotten vaccines growing up and as an adult so if there’s a way to prevent it, I’m willing to do that," McColley says.

But one thing is clear - there’s no appetite among Ohio’s leaders for mandating the vaccine. Republican Rep. Tom Patton has been in the Ohio Legislature since 2003. 

“I cannot ever imagine that the state of Ohio will ever mandate a shot. We just are not going to do that,” Patton says.

Updated with news information on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sen Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) contacted the Statehouse News Bureau to tell us she has received the vaccine.

And State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) issued the following statement:

Statement on vaccines
Credit From Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland)
Statement on vaccines

Ohio Governor's office /

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.