In a letter to the Occupational and Health Administration on Friday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said any federal vaccine mandate would undermine the state’s efforts at “education, transparency, communication and persuasion” when it comes to inoculation against COVID-19.
Ivey sent the formal comment letter to Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor Douglas Parker in response to OSHA’s vaccination and testing “Emergency Temporary Standard for employers of more than 100 people nationwide. The ETS would require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face regular testing for the virus.
“My administration encourages COVID-19 vaccinations as safe and effective, but opposes overreaching COVID-19 vaccination mandates by the government,” the letter stated. “My (Oct. 25) executive order also said several COVID-19 policies announced by President (Joe) Biden, including mandates imposed by the ETS, threatened to increase vaccine skepticism in Alabama and to severely disrupt the state’s economy. I still believe that.”
In the letter, Ivey also writes that the mandate would negatively impact employment in the state. Ivey cited the U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals stay of ETS in opposing the mandates, ruling it would “decimate” the workforce.
“Alabama is part of the Fifth Circuit, but I believe the effects of the ETS, and a final standard based on it, could be just as harmful to businesses in Alabama,” she wrote. That’s because many working age Alabamians, especially younger adults, have not gotten vaccinated against COVID-19, even though the vaccine has been widely available for much of this year.”
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 dashboard, 41.5 percent of Alabamians ages 18 to 24 have received at least one vaccine dose. The numbers increase in each age group after that, as 50.5 percent of the state population ages 25 to 49 have received a jab and 67.4 percent of those ages 50 to 64 have received a vaccine dose.
In the letter, Ivey uses these numbers to argue that Alabamians would quit if forced to get the vaccine through government mandate.
“That means significant percentages of Alabama workers have not received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” she wrote. “In light of this data, I believe that enforcement of the ETS may lead many Alabamians to quit their jobs and leave the workforce — in the middle of a substantial labor shortage, no less — or to seek work at businesses not covered by the mandate. Such disruption would interrupt people’s careers and threaten their livelihoods and the well-being of their families.”
In a document on its website explaining the ETS, OSHA said the standards are necessary to protect employees from contracting and possibly dying from COVID-19. The document explains that OSHA believes companies with 100 or more employees have the administrative resources to follow these standards, where smaller companies may not. OSHA also argues that the ETS preempts state law.
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