State leaders protest federal vaccine mandates


Attorney General John O’Connor and others spoke out against President Joe Biden’s vaccination warrants on Tuesday.
(Screen capture by Janice Francis-Smith)

Science is not what is at issue, a group of primarily vaccinated state officials opposed to federal vaccination mandates said at a press conference on Tuesday.

What Governor Kevin Stitt, Attorney General John O’Connor and others are against President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandates against. And so far, they have succeeded in having those warrants suspended, at least temporarily, by the courts.

Stitt again expressed his reluctance to dictate to Oklahoma businesses how they should handle vaccination mandates – a position appreciated by Oklahoma business leaders who do not want the federal government or the government of the United States to do so. The state makes these decisions for them.

“Everyone here, or most of us are saying ‘Hey, the vaccine is fine, we actually took the vaccine,” said Stitt, who rolled up his sleeve to receive the vaccine in March. “It’s about trying to say from a White House executive order that you can dictate and mandate every American what’s best for them. It’s anti-American, anti-Oklahoman, and we’re going to fight it.

A U.S. District Court in Georgia on Tuesday suspended the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors in a case to which Oklahoma is a party. Mandates for companies with more than 100 employees and healthcare workers have also been suspended as cases progress through court proceedings.

Dana S. Weber, CEO of manufacturing company Webco Industries in Sand Springs, said she was vaccinated. Weber said the company, which employs around 1,300 people in the Tulsa area, has provided education and incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

If vaccination were mandatory, however, Weber estimated it could lose up to 20% of its workforce. Although the warrants give workers the option to forgo vaccination in favor of getting tested weekly, Weber said the weekly testing would be too expensive for the workers themselves, and it could cause them to give up.

COVID-19 tests are available at test sites or with home tests that start at around $ 20.

“We think the federal government doesn’t know what’s best for us here in Oklahoma, in rural Oklahoma,” Weber said.

Chad Warmington, chief executive officer of The State Chamber, released a statement later today applauding efforts to fight federal mandates, but also warned heads of state not to impose their own mandates to local businesses.

“The Biden administration’s vaccine mandates, rightly challenged in the country’s courts, threaten the rights of business owners and our free enterprise markets,” Warmington said. “We applaud Attorney General John O’Connor for pushing back President Biden’s stunts to enact unconstitutional and baffling vaccine laws. The president usurped Congress and the states, an obvious abuse of power.

“However, the free enterprise environment in which Oklahoma has thrived throughout the pandemic is also threatened by legislation proposed by some members of the Oklahoma legislature,” Warmington said, referring to proposed legislation that would restrict or punish businesses that choose to require vaccination. . “These efforts are totally unnecessary and represent nothing more than political theater. We will work vigorously to ensure that these grossly anti-trade ideas never see the light of day. “

Caroline Swink, a nurse at Stillwater Medical Center, was the only person who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference who did not indicate that she had been vaccinated. She said she was there to speak on behalf of healthcare workers who have been “harassed and discriminated against” for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“These are 100% of our constitutional rights and we have to fight for them,” Swink said. “There are a lot of people in the medical field who have done their own research and are against the federal mandate and refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who want the vaccine, more power to you. It is an experimental drug.

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are not “experimental,” a term used by the United States Food and Drug Administration to refer to vaccines currently in Phase 1, 2, or 3 clinical trials. Currently available vaccines were rolled out quickly as all three phases of the trials were performed simultaneously and many bureaucratic hurdles were sped up due to the global pandemic. Some vaccines have obtained authorization for emergency use; some Internet sources have incorrectly stated the abbreviated term EUA stands for Experimental Use Authorization.

In fact, healthcare experts counter that the politicization of the vaccine leads to unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths.

“Hospitalizations have slowly increased over the past four weeks,” said LaWanna Halstead, vice president of quality and clinical initiatives for the Oklahoma Hospital Association, after the press conference. “We saw the lowest on November 9 at 376 and it has dropped to over 500 in acute hospital care today. This is probably due to the fall activities bringing people together and we will likely see this increase during the holidays. “

About 82% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oklahoma are unvaccinated people, Halstead said.

“When it comes to immunization mandates for healthcare workers, the Oklahoma Hospital Association believes that each hospital should be allowed to make its own decisions,” she said. “Nationally, the termination rate has been 1% or less in hospitals that have mandated COVID-19 vaccines. “

The state is currently suing a private health care system for its immunization mandate, although O’Connor – who also claims to be vaccinated – said the lawsuit was based on “civil rights” violations because the company did not recognize not religious reasons declared by employees. for exemption.

O’Connor said the tenure would lead to staff shortages.

“These healthcare workers have been treating our people since February 2020, now all of a sudden it’s a health issue, it’s a health issue?” O’Connor said. “I can tell you right now that with the number of people we’re going to lose in Oklahoma in our health services, it’s going to be a public health crisis, so it’s going to have the opposite effect of what the president has.” planned. “

In the months that cases have increased in Oklahoma, hospital officials have repeatedly warned of the few critical care beds available due to the COVID-19 pandemic and described how patients were. sometimes redirected out of state due to limited staff.

The legal break on federal mandates does not prevent private health systems from imposing their own mandates. Several Oklahoma health systems have announced to their employees that they are proceeding with immunization mandates in accordance with the federal government’s Jan. 4 deadline.

Stitt claimed that the states currently experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases are states that rely on lockdowns and warrants, including Vermont, with the highest vaccination rate in the country.

Data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center updated on Dec. 7 showed Oklahoma had the sixth highest positivity rate in the country, at 20.9%, with an average of 4,338 new cases daily.

The Oklahoma Department of Health is encouraging Oklahoma residents to get vaccinated, reporting an average of 4,751 new cases per day as of Wednesday. OSDH reports that 55% of eligible Oklahomans are now fully vaccinated.

More than 788,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, including more than 12,000 in Oklahoma.


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