Franklin County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing “in the strongest possible terms” a “government mandated vaccination.”
The resolution mentions President Joe Biden’s decision to direct the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration to develop an emergency temporary standard to give businesses with 100 or more employees the option to either require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for employees. It is estimated the directive will impact more than 80 million workers.
The resolution adds that no county employees managed by the commission will be required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. It does encourage residents “to receive the vaccine.”
Private-sector employers already are “overburdened with unnecessary regulations,” according to the resolution.
The resolution also states requiring vaccine status information is an invasion of privacy.
It continues that it’s not the county, state or federal government’s “responsibility to create mandates that force the general public to accept COVID-19 vaccinations against their will.”
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker told attendees he contacted the East-West Gateway Council of Governments and was told 132 businesses in Franklin County have 100 or more employees.
“Continuously, the federal government puts these burdens on our small and large businesses now to absolutely regulate their work and, quite frankly, their imposition to us as taxpayers,” he said. “This is Franklin County saying, ‘We don’t want this, we will not accept this, and that’s the way we feel it should be.’ ”
Commissioner Dave Hinson added that he feels it is likely the federal COVID-19 requirements will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Whenever you get an administration that, obviously, has been trying to do an end-around on the constitution, it’s time that we, as your elected officials on the local level, push back on that,” he said. “Their end-around is trying to use the bureaucracy of federal government to legislate.”
Courts have upheld vaccination requirements as a condition of employment, both in challenges brought by health care workers before the pandemic and since the COVID-19 outbreak, Lindsay Wiley, director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University Washington College of Law, told The Associated Press.
Where Biden’s vaccine requirements could be more open to attack is over questions of whether the administration followed the proper process to implement them, Wiley said.
Franklin County took the lead on the issue of vaccine requirements, Brinker said.
“The fact of the matter is that we wanted to pursue this immediately upon its release,” he said. “Franklin County continues to act fast when it comes to protecting our constitutional rights, and we will continue to do so with this administration.”
After the resolution was passed, Brinker criticized people who called and emailed commissioners about the statement using foul language. “I can say maybe four or five words of one message I got. The rest is just expletives,” he said. “It’s not proper in this climate, in this country and especially this county.”
Although the resolution received loud applause upon its passage, only one person spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Jon Thomason thanked commissioners for the resolution but asked if they would also eliminate the county’s hepatitis A vaccine requirements for food handlers.
Along with the vaccine requirement Thomason mentioned, Missouri requires schoolchildren be vaccinated for conditions including measles, mumps and rubella; hepatitis B; polio; and chickenpox, but no known commission resolution has been approved regarding those.
After the meeting, Brinker said the commissioners chose to take on the COVID-19 requirements because it is federal government overreach.
“They are trying to do things that can be handled and done on the local level, as previously done here,” he said. “That is the hep. A vaccine. You have a choice prior to your employment at these food establishments in Franklin County. If you wish to work in them, you must have a hep. A vaccination. If not, we’re not prohibiting you from working at that place you have been established at.”
The federal COVID-19 requirements impact people who have worked in places for more than 30 years, Brinker said.
“Their retirements depend upon these things,” he said. “Now the federal government steps in with a mandate and says you can’t even work there — you’re going to have to do this. It’s absurd.”
Officials with Mercy Hospital Washington could not be reached for comment about the county’s vaccine resolution.