PINEHURST — Citizen groups across the globe are protesting vaccine mandates as vaccine effectiveness against new variants of the COVID-19 virus has waned and Americans who are vaccinated are not showing high demand for boosters. On January 23, tens of thousands of people rallied on the National Mall to oppose government vaccine requirements.
Mitch Lancaster, a Moore County resident and former Southern Pines councilman, was one of the attendees from across the country to attend the event.
“I was thoroughly impressed with the doctors, their speeches and their commitment to the patient/doctor relationship. These men and women have taken a stand for truth and freedom and it was very inspiring,” said Lancaster.
During one of the speeches, Lancaster said he was heartbroken hearing from those who suffered an injury from the vaccine and how the federal government was “hanging those folks out to dry.”
“They were encouraged to take a shot that has injured them and now they are faced with medical expenses and hardship for who knows how long,” said Lancaster, who added that a group was formed to help those who have suffered from adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Overall it was great to see so many people, from all walks of life, committed to defeating these harmful mandates and fighting to restore our God-given freedoms,” he added.
Protests, such as the one in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23, have sprung up around the world in response to government mandates.
In early November, the Biden administration announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. The rule — which would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers — was originally set to go into effect on Jan. 4.
“The goal is to show a unified front of bringing people together — vaccinated, unvaccinated, Democrats, Republicans, all together in solidarity,” Matt Tune, one of the national protest organizers, told the Washington Post in an interview before the event.
Opposition to required vaccination is rising as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has become the dominant strain of the virus globally. Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a “fireside chat” with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on January 11 that omicron “will ultimately find just about everybody.”
Demonstrations in European cities such as Athens, Helsinki, London, Paris, and Stockholm each drew thousands, according to an Associated Press rundown of the protests.
The protests follow several defeats for the mandates in U.S. courtrooms.
Most notably, President Joe Biden’s mandate for employers with 100 or more employees to require COVID-19 vaccinations was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Following that decision many companies which had announced they were complying with the Biden administration’s order backtracked from their requirements.
The Biden administration has officially withdrawn a rule that would have required workers at big companies to get vaccinated or face regular COVID testing requirements.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the withdrawal Tuesday. But the agency said it still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.
U.S. corporations have been split over whether to mandate employee vaccinations. United Airlines began requiring vaccines in August; the company says 99% of its workers have been vaccinated or have requested medical or religious exemptions. Tyson Foods, which also announced a mandate in August, says 96% of its workers were vaccinated by a Nov. 1 deadline.
But other big businesses, including Starbucks and General Electric, scrapped previously announced vaccine mandates for their employees after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
OSHA indicated that the rule could return in some form. While it is no longer an enforceable standard, it remains a proposed rule, OSHA said. For now, the agency said it will prioritize the health care mandate.
David Michaels, an epidemiologist and former OSHA administrator who now teaches at The George Washington University, said the agency could consider a new rule that would include other measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces, such as requiring face masks, distancing, and better ventilation systems.
Across the border in Canada, truckers have recently protested a Canadian government rule that imposes a vaccine requirement for cross-border drivers. Truckers, with horns blaring, blocked the downtown of the Canadian capital Ottawa over the weekend and protestors blocked a border crossing in southern Alberta.