A federal judge blocks Biden’s vaccine mandate for US health professionals.

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A federal judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction to halt the start of President Biden’s national vaccine mandate for health professionals, which was due to begin next week.

The injunction, written by Judge Terry A. Doughty, actually expanded a separate injunction issued Monday by a federal court in Missouri. The earlier one only applied to 10 states that had joined a lawsuit against the president’s decision to require all health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes to receive at least their first injection by December 6 and be fully vaccinated for January 4.

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

The plaintiffs, he added, also have an interest in protecting their citizens from vaccinations and in avoiding the loss of jobs and tax revenues as a result of the mandate.

Several cities and states had already imposed their own vaccine mandates on health professionals, in an effort to contain outbreaks that were often transferred from communities to medical facilities such as nursing homes. Momentum for vaccine mandates picked up steam in the summer as the Delta variant swept through nursing homes, sparking spikes in staffing and infections among residents, as well as overwhelming hospitals in many states with a new wave of Covid.

Some of the larger hospital chains and several major nursing home operators also began requiring staff vaccinations, before the president began advocating for compliance nationwide. Vaccinations among health professionals have increased since the summer, although the number of cases among residents and staff remains in the thousands each week. Nationally, the vaccination rate among nursing home staff is over 74 percent, although much lower rates still exist in some regions.

Leading a 14-state lawsuit against the mandate, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the federal mandate would blow holes in state budgets and exacerbate deficits in health care facilities.

The Biden administration linked vaccine mandate adherence to federal funding, requiring immunizations for millions of workers in hospitals, nursing homes or other health facilities that rely heavily on Medicare or Medicaid programs. But many health care providers — particularly nursing home and rural hospital operators — complained that staff who were hesitant to get vaccinated would leave, exacerbating the staff shortages that plagued the sector long before the pandemic.

Those complaints helped fuel opposition in many states, such as Texas and Florida, which vehemently opposed regulations on vaccines, mask-wearing and other federal policies that were central to public health advice during the pandemic.

More than a dozen states and a few employers joined forces to fight a broader mandate that would require private employers of 100 or more employees to impose company-wide immunization. An appeals court has also temporarily blocked that mandate as the policy challengers continue their arguments that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has overstepped its authority.

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