Coast Guard urges agency to explain new practice

Coast Guard used ‘digital tool’ to more efficiently mass deny religious vax exemptions, Republicans allege.

A Republican lawmaker has accused the U.S. Coast Guard of acting through a “digital tool” to more efficiently deny requests to vaccinate school-age children against diseases such as measles, whooping cough and mumps.

The Republican staff director of the House Armed services Committee on Monday urged the federal agency to explain the new, and potentially unauthorized, practice.

“I am asking the Coast Guard to respond in a thorough and transparent manner to our committee’s questions about why, on multiple occasions, Coast Guard personnel denied requests under the MDA program to administer vaccinations to students at risk for measles, whooping cough or mumps,” Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., wrote in a letter.

The letter to Acting Secretary of the Coast Guard Robert Bodman, who runs the Office of Personnel Management, followed a Tuesday report in the Washington Post that outlined the practices detailed in a memo from Coast Guard public health officials to Department of Homeland Security officials.

The new, non-random refusal rates for the MDA program — and the reasons why they were being given — “have not been described to Congress in detail and have not been the subject of public discussion,” the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard letter did not directly address the report.

“This letter is not my personal opinion or that of my leadership,” Bodman wrote Wednesday in a written statement. “It is the opinion of the Coast Guard that the denial of requests to vaccinate students at risk for certain vaccine-preventable diseases is not in accordance with Coast Guards Manual section 3332.2.”

In a memo sent by then-acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Bossert, Bossert wrote of the MDA program: “We are addressing concerns regarding the use of this program”

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