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An OSHA Cover-Up Feeds Vaccine-Conspiracy Theories

National Review 10/22/2021

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A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site in New York City, January 29, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Anti-vaccine propaganda and conspiracy theories are not something the government can successfully control, but the government can absolutely make them worse by acting as if it has a bias toward covering up the side effects or adverse reactions to vaccines. OSHA is doing precisely that by announcing on its website that it has suspended reporting requirements that normally would cause employers to report adverse reactions to the vaccine. From the FAQ section of OSHA’s website (emphasis mine):

Vaccine Related

DOL and OSHA, as well as other federal agencies, are working diligently to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. OSHA does not wish to have any appearance of discouraging workers from receiving COVID-19 vaccination, and also does not wish to disincentivize employers’ vaccination efforts. As a result, OSHA will not enforce 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements to require any employers to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination at least through May 2022. We will reevaluate the agency’s position at that time to determine the best course of action moving forward.

The recording requirements in question are not specific to COVID, or to vaccines in general; the lengthy, highly detailed rules “require employers to record and report work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses,” and they apply to all manner of injury and illness that could potentially be classified as work-related. For example, the rule on “occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials” alone runs over 7,500 words and includes detailed requirements for employers to offer Hepatitis B vaccinations and “Information on the hepatitis B vaccine, including information on its efficacy, safety, method of administration, the benefits of being vaccinated, and that the vaccine and vaccination will be offered free of charge.”

It would be one thing if OSHA decided, as a general, ongoing matter, that paperwork requirements deterred employers from offering or requiring vaccinations and that the government should therefore not overload businesses with such requirements. That is an entirely reasonable, pro-business, pro-vaccine approach to take. But that is not what OSHA has done here, or why it has done it. The rule is not being changed; OSHA is just declining to enforce it for one specific vaccine. This alone is typical of how the administrative state exercises power: Never relinquish power on any general principle, but retain the discretion to be selective in order to play favorites and keep the citizenry dependent upon official favor. Also, the official explanation says specifically that OSHA’s first concern is the “appearance of discouraging workers” — it says right there in black and white that the federal government is afraid that people won’t get the vaccine if the usual rules for reporting side effects and other adverse reactions are followed. We’re all familiar with government coverups, but normally, one does not announce them formally in advance.

We have already seen plenty of mismanagement of public expectations for the benefits of COVID vaccination, particularly the whipsaw between public-health officials treating vaccination as a passport to freedom from COVID (hence, mandates and show-your-papers requirements), then continuing to tell vaccinated people to wear masks as the media breathlessly hypes “breakthrough” infections. All of this seems designed to degrade public trust in the vaccines, which are one of the great miracles of the modern American system. We should not fear truthful information about adverse reactions to the vaccines; there will always be some of those, and any system for collecting adverse reports will always also include people claiming reactions that may not actually be connected to the medicine they received. Openly announcing that the government is suspending the usual rules in order to avoid knowing things about the COVID vaccine is a terrible idea. It will only feed the hysteria of the anti-vaccine movement.

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