By Matt McGregor
The chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has launched an investigation into how four federal agencies carried out the COVID vaccine mandates.
Ohio Congressman Dr. Brad Wenstrup, the Republican chairman of the subcommittee, said on Aug. 1 that he’s requested “documents, communications and guidance” used by the Department of Defense (DOD), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “to craft their coercive policies.”
“At the Select Subcommittee’s hearing on vaccine mandates last week, expert witnesses highlighted the Biden administration’s abuse of executive power and disregard for individual freedoms that resulted in employment termination, decreased military readiness, and increased distrust in public health authorities,” the subcommittee press release stated. “The Select Subcommittee is seeking further information from DOD, OPM, DOL, and HHS regarding any political interference by the Biden White House and other outside organizations on federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.”
Though President Joe Biden initially stated he wouldn’t mandate the COVID vaccines in December 2020, that changed in September 2021 when he implemented Executive Order (E.O.) 14043, “Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees.”
“This E.O. required federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 8, 2021, or risk removal or termination from their federal employment,” wrote Dr. Wenstrup, also a physician, in a letter to OPM Director OPM Kiran Ahuja. “OPM issued guidance that outlined how agencies should enforce the mandate.”
The termination of health care workers, military, federal employees, and workers in many other positions followed the E.O. who, Dr. Wenstrup said, “were forced to choose between their employment and medical freedom.”
The subcommittee is requesting communications among OPM personnel, White House employees, medical professionals, and other organizations related to the vaccine mandate.
“Although all federal mandates have since been rescinded, overturned, or otherwise ended, the detrimental consequences of these policy decisions continue to affect thousands of Americans, and the federal government’s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,” the press release stated. “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.”
By March 2023, Dr. Wenstrup said, around 17,000 military employees refused the jab.
“Around half of those members have been discharged and a few secured temporary or permanent exemptions,” Dr. Wenstrup wrote in a letter to DOD Secretary Lloyd Austin. “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 military readiness.”
The Subcommittee Hearing
Last week, the subcommittee’s hearing, “Because I Said So: Examining the Science and Impact of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates,” heard from expert witnesses on the effects of the mandates.
“Both minority and majority witnesses testified to increased vaccine hesitancy across America that was sparked by an erosion of public trust in government and health officials,” the subcommittee’s press release on the hearings stated. “Select Subcommittee members and witnesses described the heartbreaking personal and professional repercussions experienced by countless Americans when they chose to exercise their bodily autonomy.”
Dr. Kevin Bardosh, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington, highlighted findings in his research paper on the social impact of mandating the vaccine.
“Our analysis strongly suggests that mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policies have had damaging effects on public trust, vaccine confidence, political polarization, human rights, inequities, and social well-being,” Dr. Bardosh told the subcommittee.
Reporter Allision Williams told the subcommittee that she was fired from ESPN for not taking the vaccine.
During that time, she was trying to conceive a child, and her own personal physician approved her refusal of the vaccine.
“Just like that, newly pregnant, I was stripped of my job, my health insurance and having my personal and medical decisions the topic of national news,” Ms. Williams said. “It is hard to explain what it is like to have so much taken from you for doing what you know in your heart and mind to be the right thing for you and your family. The financial toll it took on my family and so many others like us was significant, and still enduring.”
Danielle Runyan, senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based nonprofit Christian legal organization that litigates constitutional rights cases, defended a group of Navy SEALs who refused the vaccine.
She told the subcommittee that the DOD engaged in “coercive and punitive actions.”
“In fact, the Chief of Naval Operations issued a policy that threatened religious objectors with the loss of their careers, potentially crippling debt, and involuntary separation,” Ms. Runyan said. “It also provided that the Navy may seek recoupment of applicable bonuses, special and incentive pays, and the cost of training and education for service members refusing the vaccine. For special operations personnel, such as SEALs, this meant that the Navy was threatening to force each of them to pay back over a million dollars. While those with religious objections did not fall into the category of a refuser, they were harshly treated as such.”
‘Coercive Polices’ That Led to Distrust
Dr. John Lynch, associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine, pointed to the surge of distrust in public health officials he said was caused by the mandates.
“There has been resistance to COVID-19 vaccine requirements in spreading misinformation,” Dr. Lynch said. “It is important to understand these perspectives and find ways to improve trust in vaccines and in public health.”
Dr. Wenstrup began the hearing by stating that the COVID “coercive policies” weren’t based on science, which resulted in the distrust.
He reminded the audience that, under the former President Donald Trump administration, candidates like President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris publicly stated that they would not take the vaccine.
“And then that same person gets in office and then mandates that you take it,” Dr. Wenstrup said. “You know, I only have an undergrad degree in psychology, but I understand human nature. I practiced privately for 26 years. You know, I saw thousands and thousands of patients. Part of that is figuring out the best way to reach your patients so they have an understanding, a confidence, a trust in you.”