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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey joins states pushing back against Biden administration’s vaccine mandates

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), shown in July 2020, issued an executive order on Oct. 25 that ordered state officials to not enforce federal vaccine mandates, calling the requirements federal overreach. (Kim Chandler/AP)
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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ordered state agencies to resist the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandates on Monday, pledging to fight the White House in court.

In her executive order, she says state officials should not penalize any business or individual for ignoring federal vaccine mandates. It also says that even when compelled to enforce federal laws, state officials should “take all practical steps to notify the affected” that Alabama opposes all vaccine mandates. Her attorney general is preparing a lawsuit to stop the mandates, she said.

“Alabamians are overwhelmingly opposed to these outrageous, Biden mandates, and I stand with them,” Ivey said in a statement.

Ivey’s order goes against the Biden administration’s sweeping vaccine mandate that requires workers at federal contractors, federal employees, and health workers at facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid money to get vaccinated. Ivey’s order also stands at odds with White House plans to oblige all U.S. enterprises with 100 or more workers to adopt vaccine mandates, or install a weekly testing regime. Ivey said those moves are egregious, illegal and constitute federal overreach.

Alabama joins a growing list of state governments that have sought to counter the Biden administration’s plans to raise the nation’s overall coronavirus vaccination rate via mandates. The division has exacerbated political tensions and complicated efforts to contain the pandemic.

Governors in Texas, Florida and Arizona have imposed executive orders that aim to create legal loopholes for individuals to sidestep vaccine mandates, without facing financial or professional consequences.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) this month banned vaccine mandates in his state in an executive order. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) asked state lawmakers to legislate a similar prohibition last week. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) restricted public entities from imposing vaccine mandates.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said federal law supersedes state laws, suggesting state governments’ resistance to federal mandates are more symbolic or political, than substantial.

President Biden has expressed frustration over Republican governors’ legal challenges on vaccine mandates, telling the governors to “have at it” in remarks to reporters last month. In more recent comments, the president has urged unity in the face of growing political division over vaccination requirements.

GOP governors threaten to sue over mandates; Biden says, ‘Have at it’

“Let’s be clear: Vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us,” he said. He added: “That’s how we put this pandemic behind us and accelerate our economic recovery. We can do this.”

Vaccination rates have shown correlations with declines in covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Puerto Rico, the region with the highest vaccination rate in the country with 73.3 percent of its population immunized as of late Monday, has the lowest hospitalization rate, figures compiled by The Washington Post show. West Virginia, which has the lowest vaccination rate at 41 percent, had the third-highest hospitalization rate.

Alabama’s vaccination rate was 44.4 percent as of late Monday, the fourth lowest in the country. During the pandemic, the state has recorded 314 deaths per 100,000 people — the second-highest rate in the country — though new fatalities have declined in recent weeks.

Ivey has encouraged Alabamians to get vaccinated, while stopping short of supporting mandates. In July, she said it was time to start blaming the unvaccinated for the rapid rises in new cases and hospitalizations ravaging Alabama at the time. “I want folks to get vaccinated,” she said. “Let’s get it done. Get a shot in your arm. I’ve done it. It’s safe. … It saves lives.” But during those same remarks she said she couldn’t “make you take care of yourself.”

In Monday’s executive order, she repeated that doses of a coronavirus vaccine are safe and effective. But she also said people should be persuaded to receive them, instead of being forced via vaccine mandates, characterizing them as “government coercion” and suggesting they threaten to increase vaccine skepticism.

Ivey could not be immediately reached for comment.