Courts block vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, federal contractors

Two federal judges in recent days issued injunctions preventing the enforcement of the Biden administration’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and federal contractors in certain states.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Nov. 29 issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine requirement for healthcare workers at facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funds. The injunction applies to the 10 states that challenged the vaccine mandate in court: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. 

Schelp argued that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an executive branch agency housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exceeded its authority when it issued the vaccine mandate. “CMS seeks to overtake an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to federally dictate the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism,” wrote Schelp in the order.

CMS issued a statement in response to the order claiming that unvaccinated healthcare workers threaten patient safety. “Staff in any health care setting who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. That is why it is critical for health care providers to ensure their staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The following day, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove of theU.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandate for federal contractors in three states that challenged the mandate: Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. 

Van Tatenhove argued that the mandate exceeded the Biden administration’s authority over federal procurement. “If a vaccination mandate has a close enough nexus to economy and efficiency in federal procurement, then the statute could be used to enact virtually any measure at the president’s whim under the guise of economy and efficiency,” wrote Van Tatenhove in the order.

The Biden administration had yet to respond to Van Tatenhove’s order as of Nov. 30.

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