Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Hits Judicial Roadblock

Health care workers at facilities that treat patients who have Medicare or Medicaid coverage were required to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by this Sunday. Ten states asked for a temporary injunction and got it.

One of the more important jobs for infection preventionists (IPs) might have just become more difficult thanks to a temporary injunction placed on the Biden administration’s mandate that many health care workers must get the COVID-19 vaccine. Health care workers at facilities that treat patients who have Medicare or Medicaid coverage were required to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by this Sunday, December 5.

Not any more, at least for the health care workers in the 10 states whose attorney generals challenged the mandate. Those states are Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire.

Judge Matthew Schelp of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “failed to adequately explain its contradiction to its long-standing practice of encouraging rather than forcing—by governmental mandate—vaccination.”

Schelp notes that CMS has issued many rules and regulations over the years that facilities that treat patients with Medicare or Medicaid coverage must follow, but “never has it required any vaccine for covered facilities’ employees—despite concerns over other illnesses and their corresponding low vaccination rates. As recent as this May, CMS adopted an IFC [Interim Final Rule with Comment Period] requiring education on COVID vaccines but again decided against forced vaccination.”

The ruling states that CMS cannot state with certainty how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is in preventing transmission by vaccinated health care workers. However, the court argues that “what is known based on the evidence before the court is that the mandate will have a crippling effect on a significant number of health care facilities in Plaintiffs’ states, especially in rural areas, create a critical shortage of services (resulting in no medical care at all in some instances), and jeopardize the lives of numerous vulnerable citizens.”

The vaccine mandate represented a regulatory agency overstepping its province, according to the ruling. Schelp wrote that “the public would benefit from the preliminary injunction because it would ensure that federal agencies do not extend their power beyond the express delegation from Congress, as already discussed.”

IPs are often at the forefront of trying to encourage their fellow health care professionals who are vaccine hesitant to get the vaccine. Often, that entails IPs taking on the mountains of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines that have risen since the pandemic started in March 2020.