Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health care workers nationwide

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday that temporarily halts President Joe Biden’s national vaccine mandate for health care workers.

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The mandate, which was to begin next week, was put on hold by Judge Terry Doughty. The nationwide injunction came a day after a court issued a similar injunction that applied to only 10 states.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” Judge Doughty, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, wrote. He added: “It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.”

Doughty ruled in favor of a request from Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to block the emergency regulation issued Nov. 4 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands,” he wrote. “If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency.

“During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties,” he added.

The mandate requires vaccines for nearly every full-time employee, part-time employee, volunteer, or contractor working at healthcare facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicaid funding. Those employees and volunteers must get their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and to have both shots by Jan. 4. If employees are not vaccinated by then, facilities risk losing federal funding if they don’t comply.

The Justice Department has filed reversals of the orders blocking the Biden administration’s vaccine rules.

“That threat to human life and health far exceeds the potential indirect harms to patients resulting from workers who may quit rather than receive the vaccine,” the Justice Department said in one such filing Tuesday.

The mandate applies to more than 10 million workers at such facilities. According to the ruling, around 2.4 million haven’t been vaccinated.

Hospitals and nursing homes have argued that the mandate threatens staffing levels at a time when hiring employees has been difficult.