Judge halts Biden vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

A federal court on Monday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers at hospitals that receive federal funding.

The ruling by a Missouri-based federal judge applies to health care employees in the 10 states that sued to block the administration’s Nov. 5 rule. Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp, a Trump appointee, appeared persuaded by the states’ argument that the mandate would lead to staffing shortages.

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“The scale falls clearly in favor of healthcare facilities operating with some unvaccinated employees, staff, trainees, students, volunteers and contractors, rather than the swift, irremediable impact of requiring healthcare facilities to choose between two undesirable choices — providing substandard care or providing no healthcare at all,” Schelp wrote in a 32-page order.

The ruling handed a temporary win — while the case proceeds — to vaccine-opposed workers at health care facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicaid funding in the 10 states.

The state challengers sued in federal court just days after an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services put their vaccine rule in place. The states argued that the mandate encroaches on states' rights and exceeds the agency’s authority, and that its enactment failed to follow proper procedures.

The Biden administration has argued that the rule is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 among millions of health care workers and Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Attorneys for the Department of Justice, which argued the case for the administration, did not immediately respond when asked if they intend to appeal.

--Updated at 2:34 p.m.