Indiana Attorney General pushing back on federal vaccine mandate, White House coordinator addresses concerns

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – As a federal vaccine mandate for many health care workers is expected to go into effect within the next few weeks, Indiana’s Attorney General says he’s looking at ways to fight that requirement and stop the other COVID-19 mandates President Biden announced earlier this month.

These include a vaccine and testing mandate for all businesses with more than 100 employees.

“Individuals know how to take care of themselves and their families better than a government can,” Attorney General Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) said.

Rokita added he does not believe the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have the right to issue a vaccine mandate for health care employees.

“Look what it’s causing,” Rokita said. “You have health care workers leaving.”

But some health care systems and other companies say the vast majority of employees are complying with vaccine mandates already implemented.

At Community Health Network, which requires staff members to get the COVID-19 vaccine, more than 90% of employees are vaccinated, and less than 1% were terminated for not complying with the mandate, according to Dr. Robin Ledyard, chief medical officer.

“Although we definitely lost less than 1% of our workforce based on the mandate, I think for other smaller hospitals or critical access hospitals, losing 1% for them or losing one person actually and for all of us can be detrimental,” she said.

During his visit to Indianapolis, we asked the White House vaccinations coordinator, Dr. Bechara Choucair, about those concerns.

“We have lots of conversations about vaccine requirements, and the bottom line – we know that vaccine requirements work,” Dr. Choucair said.

“Take United Airlines, for example. It went up from 59% to almost 98% in two months,” he added. “Take some health systems like Kaiser Permanente that are over 90% now.”

Dr. Choucair acknowledged vaccine mandates aren’t the only way to get more people vaccinated, adding that information and incentives have convinced some to get the shot. But he believes vaccine requirements make an impact.

“We’re going to have to keep doing everything we can to get this country vaccinated,” Dr. Choucair said. “This is our path to getting us past this pandemic.”

Rokita said private employers have the right to issue vaccine mandates of their own, adding that he won’t try to stop them from doing so.

Rokita said he will be able to take legal action once the federal government issues the mandates.

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