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House COVID-19 panel launches probe into federal vaccine mandates

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Tuesday announced a probe into the COVID-19 vaccine mandates and related policies at federal government agencies.

Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said in a statement that the probe would look into “the development and implementation of overreaching, federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates” at the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

“The Select Subcommittee is asking DOD, OPM, DOL, and HHS to provide any relevant data on requested exemptions and terminated employment resulting from the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Wenstrup said in the press release. 

“Although all federal mandates have since been rescinded, overturned, or otherwise ended, the detrimental consequences of these policy decisions continue to affect thousands of Americans, and the federal government’s egregious interference in the sacred doctor-patient relationship will undoubtedly have long lasting ramifications,” Wenstrup wrote. 

The Biden administration instituted COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal employees and federal contractors in September 2021, and for international air travelers in October 2021 — all of which ended with the public health emergency in May 2023. The administration also allowed for exemptions for medical or religious reasons. 

Wenstrup asked for access to all documentation, communication and guidance “utilized by these agencies to craft their coercive policies prior to forcing a novel vaccine — that did not stop the spread or transmission of the virus — on millions of Americans,” according to the press release.

The Biden administration has touted the federal vaccine requirement and credited it with the high vaccination rate among federal employees — a compliance rate of 98 percent, which includes people who had at least one dose or had an approved or pending exemption request.

At the Department of Defense (DOD), Secretary Lloyd Austin instituted his vaccine mandate in August 2021 and was adamant on the need for a mandate in order to ensure the safety of troops, who were in close quarters frequently. He rolled back the mandate in January 2023, after Congress passed a law requiring him to do so. 

“The mandate forced DOD civilians and armed service members to comply with taking the COVID-19 vaccine or risk adverse personnel actions to include termination and separation respectively,” Wenstrup wrote in his letter to Austin. “As of March 2023, approximately 17,000 service members refused to take the vaccine. Around half of those members have been discharged and a few secured temporary or permanent exemptions. As of January 10, 2023, the armed forces had tens of thousands of pending exemption requests. This raises serious concerns regarding the vaccine mandate’s effect on miliary readiness.”

In the press release, Wenstrup wrote, “The Select Subcommittee is committed to conducting a thorough investigation of any wrongdoing by government officials and seeks to deliver answers about COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the American people.”

Source: The Hill

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