Local officials troubled by Biden’s vaccine mandate
About 100 million Americans and thousands of local workers could be affected by President Joe Biden’s plan to require employers with more than 100 employees to prescribe COVID-19 vaccines or require weekly testing.
Biden announced last week that all federal employees and contractors would be required to get vaccinated, eliminating the previous option of weekly testing instead of a vaccine. Workers at all healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding will also need to be fully immunized.
Biden further ordered the Occupational Health and Safety Organization (OSHA) to implement a policy requiring private employers to require the vaccine or weekly testing.
State, local leaders react
Governor Eric Holcomb called the federal warrants a “bridge too far” and an assault on personal liberty. He issued a statement Friday stressing that private companies, not the government, can “make the best decision for them that will keep their doors open.”
“I believe the vaccine is the # 1 tool that will protect us and our loved ones against COVID-19. This is the tool that will end the pandemic, ”Holcomb said in the statement. “However, I firmly believe that it is not the role of the state government or the federal government to issue a vaccine mandate to citizens and private companies. This is the approach our administration has taken from the start. “
Although he recently advocated for more Hoosiers to be vaccinated, Holcomb said that “it is fundamentally the right of a citizen to choose whether or not to be vaccinated.”
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement Thursday that he was ready to take legal action.
“My team and I, along with other like-minded attorneys general, are reviewing all legal actions on how to oppose these authoritarian actions by the Biden administration,” Rokita said. “We will be ready to file a complaint if Biden seeks illegal actions restricting the freedoms of the Hoosiers.”
Some large employers in Indiana, including Eli Lilly and several health systems with locations statewide, are already mandating the vaccine, but other large employers such as Cummins have been reluctant to impose the vaccine to allow freedom to Choose.
Local leaders did not believe a warrant would be possible due to state law banning vaccine passports. But, with a federal workforce security policy, that might be moot.
So far, local officials have not started planning for the implementation of a mandate because they are unsure of the logistics of collecting health information or of the need to test dozens of cases. ’employees likely to refuse the vaccine.
Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers are taking a wait-and-see approach because official OSHA guidelines have not been made public and because, whatever those guidelines are, legal challenges are imminent, they said.
“It is likely that the vaccine mandate proposed by the president will be tested in the courts. My team and I are closely monitoring the situation and the impact on Greenwood residents and businesses, ”Myers said.
The Johnson County Council of Commissioners did not discuss the potential impact on the county’s 565 workers or the health department’s test site, county attorney Shena Johnson said.
School districts in the county have also not started discussions on the mandate, as the boards remain on hold, spokespersons said via email.
With a federal mandate, local governments and large employers would be faced with implementing a mandate that they find problematic. Local officials who are vaccinated find it difficult to mandate others to do so, several said.
“I believe people should be vaccinated, but it should be their choice to get vaccinated,” Barnett said. “I encourage employees in our city to get vaccinated, but I am not forcing anyone to get vaccinated or tested until I see advice on how our state and the federal government are going to handle this. “
Impact on health workers
At Johnson Memorial Health, approximately 900 employees would be subject to the vaccination mandate when it goes into effect. It is estimated that 70% of employees have already been vaccinated but, due to the vaccination passport law, the hospital does not have official data, said Dr David Dunkle, chief executive officer.
Although some health systems did, Dunkle was reluctant to implement a vaccination mandate because vaccination passport law made it impossible to verify vaccination status, and people should be free to make their own decisions. health, he said.
The warrant comes after Biden’s calls to reconsider unvaccinated people went unanswered in more than 40% of the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 54% of U.S. residents are fully vaccinated and nearly 64% have received one dose of the two-dose vaccines.
In Indiana, 54.1% of residents aged 12 and over are fully immunized. In Johnson County, 60.6% of Johnson County residents aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
COVID-19 cases have increased across the country and hospitals are being taxed. The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to curb the spread of the delta variant and end the widespread public health threat that persists.
Johnson Memorial Hospital twice exceeded its previous record of 19 COVID-19 patients last week, with 22 COVID-19 patients treated for complications from the virus on separate days, Dunkle said.
As of Monday, the hospital only had 12 patients left, but it likely won’t stay that low for long as more than 100 county residents test positive for the virus daily. Of those 12 patients, five were on a ventilator, a statistic not seen since the start of the pandemic, he said.
The mandate is expected to alleviate some pressure on health facilities that have faced staff shortages due, in part, to partial immunization mandates, including long-term care facilities and several hospital systems that have implemented carry out a vaccination mandate of their own accord.
The Indiana Health Care Association and the Indiana Center for Assisted Living have previously expressed concerns that a mandate exclusively for long-term care facilities would exacerbate the staffing issues they already face.
“This policy will help retain the workforce essential to care for our state’s elderly and disabled populations, and will help alleviate some of the staffing challenges that long-term care providers currently face in Indiana. and across the country, ”said association president Zach Cattell. A declaration. “Wider application of this policy will also help protect our country’s most vulnerable, who often interact regularly with a variety of healthcare professionals. “
Politics, legal battles next obstacle
The policy surrounding the vaccine has created a barrier to resolving the public health crisis, Dunkle said.
Politics aside, there is a solid medical and historical basis for a vaccination mandate, he said.
“It has been politicized. It’s not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. I believe in individual choice. I sometimes question the mandates. But when I look at how other vaccines are needed to do things, I don’t think another is an overshoot, ”Dunkle said.
The mandate would be enforced by OSHA, which oversees workplace safety. Getting vaccinated is presented as a threat to health and safety at work.
Likewise, several vaccines are required to attend school and to enter the United States on a visa.
Rokita did not specify the legal strategy he would employ to fight the mandate, but other prominent Republicans also said the mandate was unconstitutional.
Previous US Supreme Court cases challenging vaccine warrants were based on the 14th Amendment due process, but the argument failed.
The Supreme Court previously ruled in the Jacobson v Massachusetts case in 1904 that a state could create a law requiring vaccinations. A case of 1922, Zucht v. King, Jacobson confirmed against Massachusetts in a challenge to a vaccination warrant by a Texas school district. None of the cases, however, rendered a decision on the constitutionality of a federal mandate.
Daily Journal reporter Andy Bell-Baltaci and The Associated Press contributed to this report.