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Lankford claims US is 'at a very high rate of immunity' ahead of Senate vote to repeal Biden's COVID vaccine mandate for private companies

Lankford's office

U.S. Senate Republicans late Wednesday voted to overturn President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate for private companies, though the action is likely symbolic.

They needed just 51 votes to do so and got support from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, pushing the final vote to 58–42.

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford appeared at a news conference Wednesday morning with the leader of the effort, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, and several other Republicans. Lankford said he decided to get vaccinated and is grateful he was able to.

“There are millions of other people across the country that have determined they don't want to take the vaccine. And in the United States where right now, 92% of the adult population — 92% — either has natural immunity based on having COVID and recovered or has the vaccine, we're at a very high rate of immunity,” Lankford said.

It is not known how long protection from reinfection lasts after someone recovers from COVID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of severe illness or death far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity. Roughly 60% of Americans and 70% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Lankford also said the president can’t choose who private companies hire and fire.

“And when I talk to employers in my state in Oklahoma, the most difficult issue they're facing right now is the potential that they're going to have huge fines in their company if they don't fire critical workforce that's in their company,” Lankford said.

Biden’s mandate applies to private employers with 100 or more employees, and workers can opt to take weekly COVID tests rather than get vaccinated.

The Senate measure is unlikely to pass the House, and Biden has threatened to veto it. But the mandate for private companies is not currently in effect. A federal court has put it on hold.

Federal courts have also blocked Biden’s other vaccine or test mandates, which apply to federal contractors and health care workers.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.