President Joe Biden’s initiative for a door-to-door outreach program to speak with Americans about the COVID-19 vaccine has sparked criticism and controversy. Many state officials see it as overly federal in scope, while others believe the unprecedented health crisis calls on the government to disperse information on vaccines.
State Representative Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, chair of the House State Rights Committee, responded by calling it intrusive and inappropriate. He cited a statement by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who said it was up to the government to know who has and has not received the vaccine.
“I contend that these types of actions and claims by the federal government are not only excessive, but violate several provisions of the US Constitution,” Steagall said. “First, the enumerated powers delegated to Article I, Section 8; the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and belongings, as found in the Fourth Amendment; as well as the vertical separation of powers prescribed in the 10th Amendment. “
However, Becerra later clarified that the government does not monitor Americans who have received an injection and does not intend to maintain a database. Such a list would be quickly reprimanded, as State Senator Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, said it would be of broad federal scope.
“There are some things the federal government doesn’t need to know about people,” he said. “I think anything that comes close to that would be quite irrelevant.”
Pemberton added that he doesn’t think the federal government should ask anyone about vaccination status, and he has concerns about privacy laws.
While some members of Congress have claimed that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act would prevent Biden’s administration from questioning people about their status, HIPPA was designed to prevent health care providers and insurance companies to share people’s health information without their consent. There is nothing in this document that prohibits requesting information about an individual’s health.
Some representatives went so far as to compare the door-to-door idea to what the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany would do. Cherokee County Democratic Party Chairman Yolette Ross said such comparisons – or other implications that the government would then go to people’s homes to inquire about the guns they own – amounted to fear. She also doesn’t see a problem with volunteers asking if anyone has been vaccinated.
“It’s not like they’re taking names and if you’re not vaccinated they’re going to kick you out. It’s just an education campaign,” she said. “They ask me if I’ve been vaccinated, so it’s a yes or a no. They don’t go into the details of my medical history, just asking me a direct question.”
An abundance of information on the COVID-19 vaccine has been released by health departments, health facilities, government entities, tribal nations and more.
Pemberton said anyone who doesn’t care about vaccinations right now “was probably living in a hole in the side of a mountain somewhere.” He said the administration’s awareness campaign is a waste of taxpayer money and time, and believes such initiatives should be left to state agencies.
“I’m a 10th Amendment guy who thinks that powers that aren’t given directly to the federal government are reserved for the states,” he said. “I don’t think there is anything in the Constitution that says the federal government should have control over vaccinations and our health in the state of Oklahoma.”
But with so much information spread about the virus and the vaccine, the past year has been strewn with false narratives and alternative facts. In fact, US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on Thursday, warning the public of the threat of health misinformation.
“It can create confusion, sow mistrust and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Analysis shared by the SG found that fake news was 70% more likely to be shared than real. Ross therefore sees no problem with the government informing citizens of the safety and availability of vaccines.
“We are living in unprecedented times with this pandemic,” she said. “There’s a lot of misinformation going around on social media, so what’s wrong with an education campaign – going door-to-door to educate people and get rid of some of the disinformation? “
Cherokee County Libertarian Party Chairperson Shannon Grimes said the federal government should not impose choices on health care, no matter how good they are, or keep huge databases of health care records. health. Encouraging local resources to reach out to educate and encourage people to take action, or encourage businesses and institutions to demand vaccinations, shouldn’t be the government’s business, he said, “but the states The United have long since abandoned the idea of having a limited government, even if only at the federal level. “
“Of course, this is all to address an issue that is at least partially created by the way authorities have handled and communicated the issues surrounding the coronavirus and vaccines,” Grimes said. “The officials and the talking heads who echo it have created confusion; they disparaged people with questions, often only to learn later that those ideas weren’t so “out there”. This has led to mistrust and politicization of the problem instead of dealing rationally with rational risk assessments. Until these issues are resolved, it will be difficult for many on both sides to deal rationally with each other, the virus, or its vaccines. “
Cherokee County Republican Party Chairman Josh Owen; State Representative Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah; and State Senator Blake Stephens, R-Tahlequah, did not respond to media inquiries at press time.