“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the federal government to decide what we’re allowed to do in our state,” Gov. Kay Ivey said Thursday. “We feel that our citizens would prefer for us to take care of ourselves.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month recommended that OSHA require opioid manufacturers and distributors to fill out applications that would detail how they’re complying with a nationwide mandate to provide vaccinations to their workers. The CDC reports that nearly 19 million workers are at risk of developing opioid-use-related illnesses if they continue to get their prescriptions from providers who prescribe the medications without first being vaccinated.
Health inspectors have found that pill mills have used the most popular opiate — OxyContin — to write prescriptions for unvaccinated patients in Alabama. The CDC also reports that nearly 500,000 people in the state are addicted to opioid painkillers.
During a congressional hearing last month, current and former members of Congress and those who have struggled with addiction from both sides of the aisle discussed their hopes that OSHA’s requirements would result in a reduction in opioid overdose deaths in their districts. Some argued that failure to follow this mandate could also result in job loss and the economic damage that will accompany it.
“We are one the front lines in this fight,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “It is all part of creating a safe work environment for everyone. Not including the opioid addiction fight will mean many layoffs, which I hope is not the case.”
On Thursday, Ivey joined with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Gov. Kay Ivey and Rep. Gary Palmer, in declaring that any penalties that could be imposed by OSHA should be allowed to “at least play out through the courts.”
The Obama administration’s OSHA issued its draft proposal for the mandatory vaccination provision last year. The agency is expected to finalize the rule sometime later this year.
But, according to a statement released by the governor’s office on Thursday, “the administration’s plan would potentially subject Alabama to extensive fines that, if ever triggered, could lead to substantial loss of revenue for the State, job losses, and economic damage.”
When approached for comment about the state’s opposition to the OSHA rule, the governor’s office sent a brief statement to CNN.
“The fact is, OSHA regulations have the potential to put jobs at risk in Alabama,” it said. “Although the CDC recommendations are laudable, OSHA’s mandatory mandate is unworkable and would create confusion and detriment for Alabama’s workforce.”
It added that the CDC’s recommendations for having workers protected from opioids are “doable.”