WASHINGTON — Oklahoma’s senior senator on Thursday called on President Biden to roll back his mandate requiring federal employees and contractors to become fully vaccinated by the new deadline of Jan. 4.

The Biden administration announced a vaccination requirement for businesses with 100 or more employees on Thursday, tying it to the deadline of Jan. 4 for health care workers and federal contractors.

Sen. Jim Inhofe said “the harmful vaccine mandate” is causing confusion and has unintended consequences. He also said the federal government should not intervene in medical decisions between doctors and their patients.

“I’m fighting Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandate at every turn — whether that is through multiple pieces of legislation or letters demanding answers on the negative impact of the vaccine. Whether it is in our military, supply chain, education system, or more,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) and 39 House members are ratcheting up the pressure on Biden to amend his mandate.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to suspend COVID-19 vaccine mandates for Oklahoma National Guard members.

Stitt told Austin an estimated 800 Oklahoma guardsmen, or 10 percent of the state’s force, have not been vaccinated and “will not receive” the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is irresponsible for the federal government to place mandatory vaccine obligations on Oklahoma national guardsmen, which could potentially limit the number of individuals that I can call upon to assist the state during an emergency,” Stitt said.

Stitt said the mandate asks some Oklahomans to sacrifice their personal beliefs to keep their jobs.

“All of our national guardsmen take this calling very seriously. These are patriotic citizens who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others in our communities during times of greatest need.”

Stitt also cited “practical considerations” in his letter to suspend the vaccine mandate, such as the state’s extreme weather.

“It is during these challenging times that the National Guard is most needed. The National Guard is uniquely positioned to step up and attack the hardest problems during the harshest times,” he said.

Biden signed an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University announced requirements on Oct. 29 that their employees, including student employees, be vaccinated by Dec. 8. The deadline was extended on Thursday to Jan. 4.

An OU representative said the Department of Education did not issue any formal guidance to the universities. However, the university is always mindful of guidance and orders issued by local, state, and federal governments and is appropriately responsive, the representative said. OU and OSU officials said hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants could be jeopardized if employees did not get vaccinated.

The OU representative said student employees who rely on federal student aid will not lose the aid. Currently, the executive order only applies to contracts for services and cooperative agreements.

“After Jan. 4, employees who are not in compliance, either by being vaccinated or receiving university-approved accommodation, will be subject to disciplinary action consistent with the university’s policies. Human Resources will handle all such cases in accordance with university procedures and the law,” the representative said.

The university said that 94.9 percent of OU faculty, staff and graduate teaching assistants responding to a university survey had been fully vaccinated as of the middle of September. A total of 2,796 of the 8,079 contacted responded to the survey.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. For more stories from Gaylord News visit GaylordNews.net.