Despite Congress overwhelmingly voting to end the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and President Biden signing it into law, HHS Sec. Becerra has yet to release a plan to rescind the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers
WASHINGTON — Today, United States Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra expressing concern over the Department’s ambiguity regarding the healthcare workers vaccine mandate and demanding he end the policy immediately.
While there are serious privacy and individual rights concerns, this mandate has the potential to be calamitous for our healthcare system. The Biden Administration’s own projections suggest that there will be a shortage of over 78,000 full time registered nurses by 2025, a shortage of 3 million essential low-wage health workers in the next 5 years, and a projected shortage of almost 140,000 physicians in 10 years.
“Healthcare workers across the country have left the industry at unprecedented rates, causing health providers great concern on how to adapt to a growing workforce shortage,” Johnson wrote.
“With the Administration now having ended the PHE, there is no longer a justification for the vaccine mandate to remain in place for healthcare workers and request you terminate the mandate immediately. Given the projected shortages from your department’s own data, this simple fix would provide an immediate relief,” Johnson continued.
“I urge you [Sec. Becerra] to work with Congress to prevent any further infringement upon Americans’ civil rights by ending the vaccine mandate rather than arbitrarily maintaining a government order that can no longer be justified given the end of the PHE,” Johnson concluded.
Read more about the letter in The Epoch Times.
Read the letter here or below:
Dear Secretary Becerra:
I write to you today regarding the President’s recent signing of H. J. Res. 7, which officially terminates the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) originally declared on March 13, 2020. As the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department), charged with moving our country beyond the unprecedented COIVD-19 crisis, this action taken by the President makes clear the federal government no longer needs use of emergency powers. While I agree the end of the COVID-19 PHE is beyond warranted, I’m concerned with the ambiguity of the recent announcement from the White House stating that the Department will begin the process of ending the healthcare workers vaccine mandate. Unfortunately, no information was provided on exactly when that will take place. Given the end of the PHE, there is no justification to delay any further and request you terminate this vaccine requirement immediately.
As our nation has moved beyond the pandemic, I must highlight the critical juncture which our industry stakeholders currently face. Specifically, healthcare workers across the country have left the industry at unprecedented rates, causing health providers great concern on how to adapt to a growing workforce shortage. In May of 2022, U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released an advisory calling attention to the increasing number of fatigue and resignations within the healthcare workforce, as well as the projected shortages. Specifically, Dr. Murthy highlights “There is a projected shortage of more than 3 million essential low-wage health workers in the next five years and a projected shortage of nearly 140,000 physicians by 2033.” Additionally, just a couple months later, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released in November of 2022, updated data regarding these projected shortages. HRSA estimates “Nationally, there is a projected shortage of 78,610 full-time equivalent (FTE) RNs in 2025 and a shortage of 63,720 FTE RNs in 2030.” Further, HRSA predicts “Nationally, across all physician specialties in the United States, there is a projected shortage of 81,180 full-time equivalent (FTE) physicians in 2035.”
I know you will agree that addressing this shortage must be swift in order to prevent a future healthcare crisis as our nation heals from the pandemic. Time and again, our country has relied on our nation’s healthcare workers, and thankfully they have always stood the test of time, even in the face of great uncertainty. For that, our nation remains grateful for their many sacrifices and service to the care of our citizenry. Therefore, with the Administration now having ended the PHE, there is no longer a justification for the vaccine mandate to remain in place for healthcare workers and request you terminate the mandate immediately. Given the projected shortages from your department’s own data, this simple fix would provide an immediate relief.
The United States House of Representatives has already acted to rescind the mandate. On January 31, 2023, the House passed H.R. 497, the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act on a bipartisan vote . This legislation would nullify the mandate and further prohibit the Department from issuing any further rule substantially similar to 86 Fed. Reg. 61555.
I trust that healthcare workers should have the same freedoms as the rest of our citizenry to make their own healthcare decisions without any further coercion from the federal government. Continuing to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine on the healthcare industry sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to further infringement on individual rights and freedoms – rights that should always be preserved against government intrusion. I urge you to work with Congress to prevent any further infringement upon Americans’ civil rights by ending the vaccine mandate rather than arbitrarily maintaining a government order that can no longer be justified given the end of the PHE.
Please continue to keep me updated on the Department’s efforts to rollback these emergency authorities.
Congressman Johnson is the Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference, a member of the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, and a former constitutional law litigator.