Allegheny County embraces COVID vaccines, mandates

Federal vaccine mandates have sparked controversy throughout the country, including within Allegheny County as seen by complaints filed by the Allegheny County Police Association around a month ago. Generally, supporters of the mandates believe in their importance for ending COVID-19, while those in opposition argue against them on the basis of constitutionality.

Just last Tuesday, opponents of the vaccine mandate rallied at the Pennsylvania Capitol to support a bill proposed by Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano (R), which would prevent employers and the state from requiring employees to get vaccinated. Mastriano, joined by Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Center, Clinton), claimed the vaccine mandate was tyranny.

“We got people who lose their jobs because of overreach and tyranny. It’s as simple as that,” Mastriano said in his closing remarks.

Chief Quality Officer at UPMC Tami Minnier spoke about the importance of getting vaccinated at a press conference on Nov. 5:

“Today, if you are unvaccinated, you have a 10 times higher risk of dying [sic] for COVID. I, for one, along with the people I care about, and the people that we work with, don’t want to see that happen. And we don’t believe that that is a risk worth taking because the vaccines are so very safe and effective.”

On the federal level, Biden’s federal vaccine mandate was frozen in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is based in New Orleans. The mandate required large companies to have their employees vaccinated by early January or test unvaccinated employees weekly. In the circuit court, a panel of three judges, appointed by former President Trump and former President Reagan, held that the mandate is not within the scope of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal administration that issued it. However, the Department of Justice has issued a statement arguing against this decision, and the matter will likely be settled at a later date in the Supreme Court.

Otherwise, in the courts, nearly every lawsuit filed arguing for the unconstitutionality of the vaccine mandate has been struck down.

Large Pennsylvania healthcare providers like UPMC and Allegheny Health Network have agreed to abide by federal vaccine mandates, and chief medical officials issued statements regarding how the decision serves to protect patients and healthcare workers. As COVID-19 numbers remain high in Allegheny County, Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen urges people to get vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine is now authorized for five to 11 year olds, and UPMC advises parents to take their children to get vaccinated.