Biden vaccine rule for health workers blocked in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and 7 other states

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 12:54 PM CST
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement.

The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.

The preliminary injunction by St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp applies to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Similar lawsuits also are pending in other states.

The federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in about 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers that get funding from the government health programs. Workers are to receive their first dose by Dec. 6 and their second shot by Jan. 4

The court order against the health care vaccine mandate comes after Biden’s administration suffered a similar setback for a broader policy. A federal court previously placed a hold on a separate rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers get vaccinated or else wear masks and get tested weekly for the coronavirus.

Biden’s administration contends federal rules supersede state policies prohibiting vaccine mandates and are essential to slowing the pandemic.

But the judge in the health care provider case wrote that federal officials likely overstepped their legal powers.

“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,” Schelp wrote in his order.

Even under an exceedingly broad interpretation of federal powers, “Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact the this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate,” Schelp wrote.

Siouxland governors react to judge’s ruling

South Dakota Gov Kristi Noem and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds are applauding the judge’s ruling to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

After the ruling was announced, Noem tweeted out saying, “Republican states have won several victories in defense of our people’s freedoms against the Biden administration’s unconstitutional vax mandates. The legal fight isn’t over, but the results are very promising.

In a statement, Reynolds also celebrated the court’s decision to block Biden’s vaccine mandate:

“Iowa is fighting back against the Biden Administration’s attack on individual liberties and I applaud the court’s decision to enjoin the vaccine mandate rule for Medicare and Medicaid certified providers and suppliers.

“Medical providers that have been on the frontlines of this pandemic saving lives deserve the freedom and ability to make their own informed health care decisions.

I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but I also firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make health care decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families, and I remain committed to protecting those freedoms. President Biden should do the same.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA)

According to the latest numbers from the states’ health departments, 64.04% of South Dakotans over the age of five have received at least one dose of the vaccine. While Iowa has the lowest vaccination rate of the three Siouxland states, with 57% of the state’s residents having received at least one dose. Finally, with Nebraska, officials are reporting 77.36% of its 12 and older population have at least one dose of the vaccine, the highest percentage of the Siouxland states.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.