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22 states contest COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers

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Attorneys general file petition to withdraw requirement.

The federal government should withdraw its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, according to a petition from 22 state attorneys general.

A coalition of states has requested the administration of President Joe Biden and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) stop requiring shots and boosters for physicians and other clinicians of health care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The mandate violates the rights of health care workers and worsened medical staffing shortages in rural and western states, said Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who is leading the group. The other states involved are: Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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“The Biden administration relied on a purported emergency to sidestep its normal requirements and rush through its flagrantly unconstitutional mandate,” Knudsen said in the news release. “But evidence available at that time, and evidence that has emerged since, demonstrates that full vaccination doesn’t prevent infection or transmission. Breakthrough infections are common, and studies increasingly show heightened health risks associated with the vaccines.

“The mandate has limited many patients’ access to needed medical care and imposed substantial costs on patients and healthcare workers without any corresponding benefits,” Knudsen said. “The Biden administration should have never imposed this mandate, and CMS should now throw it in the trash bin where it belongs.”

The current petition was filed under the Administrative Procedures Act requesting CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) take immediate action to repeal its interim final rule (IFR) and state surveyor guidance of November 2021. Those require participating healthcare facilities to “develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all staff are fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” according to Knudsen’s office.

It was not immediately clear exactly how many workers were affected by the mandate. Knudsen said the requirement could affect as many as 10 million health care workers and suppliers across the nation, and that CMS estimated that 2.4 million were unvaccinated when it issued the IFR. In November 2021, CMS estimated the number at about 76,000 providers with more than 17 million health care workers across the country.

“As a result of the IFR, significant numbers of their citizens who are healthcare employees have been forced to submit to bodily invasion, navigate exemption processes, or lose their jobs and their livelihoods,” the petition stated. “All their citizens will suffer as a result of the predictable and conceded exacerbation of labor shortages in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.”

The federal rule came months after health care groups began calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for workers in health care organizations. The American College of Physicians, the American Hospital Association, and other groups supported the move, while the Biden administration wanted broader vaccine mandates among large employers.


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