Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Blocked by Federal Courts

Person getting a shot in the arm

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. This decision comes on the heels of a similar preliminary injunction issued Monday by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, which barred the mandate from taking effect in 10 other states. The injunction from the Louisiana District Court applies nationwide, except for the 10 states already covered by the preliminary injunction issued by the Missouri District Court. Both cases challenged the validity of the CMS rule issued on November 5 that requires all staff at all Medicare and Medicaid-certified providers be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by January 4, 2022. Given the tight timeframe and far-reaching legal issues surrounding the mandate, both courts found it was appropriate to issue an injunction.

The Louisiana District Court’s Memorandum Ruling found CMS likely does not have authority to enact the kind of sweeping mandate at issue here, given the vast economic and political significance. The court stated such a mandate would require an Act of Congress and cannot be delegated to an agency by a general authorization to make rules. The court further justified the injunction based on CMS’s attempt to sidestep the Administrative Procedure Act by issuing the rule without the required comment period for the public.

The court also found there is likelihood of irreparable harm without an injunction. The court noted that states have a sovereign interest immediately at stake in the separation of state and federal powers that would be overridden if the mandate were allowed to proceed. Further, the court asserted that states have an interest in protecting their citizens’ rights. The court found their interests would be irreparably harmed by healthcare workers being forced to choose between their jobs or the vaccine and the impact on the availability of medical care due to staff shortages expected to result from the mandate.

As a result of the injunction, CMS must immediately cease all implementation and enforcement efforts of the mandate.

For additional information on this or any related topic, please contact any of the KDDK healthcare or labor and employment law professionals.

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