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Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for US health workers

Workers affected by the health care mandate were to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by next Monday.

A federal district court judge in Louisiana has ordered a preliminary injunction against the start of President Joe Biden's mandate that health care workers become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The lawsuit was brought by 14 states -- Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. But U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty's ruling takes effect nationwide except for ten states that were part of a separate order on Monday.

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 government health programs. Workers are to receive their first dose by Dec. 6 and their second by Jan. 4.

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

Doughty disagreed and questioned the constitutionality of the mandate which did not go through Congress.

"If the separation of powers meant anything to the Constitutional framers, it meant that the three necessary ingredients to deprive a person of liberty or property – the power to make rules, to enforce them, and to judge their violations – could never fall into the same hands," Doughty wrote in his conclusion. "If the Executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the Legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by the Constitution would be in the same hands."

Doughty also wrote he expects a higher court will make the final decision.

It follows a separate order issued Monday by another a judge in Missouri, blocking enforcement of the mandate against health care workers in 10 states that sued -- Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Also Tuesday, Kentucky's attorney general won a preliminary court order Tuesday to block Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal government contractors and subcontractors. The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove stops the mandate from taking effect in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

“This is a significant ruling because it gives immediate relief from the federal government’s vaccine requirement to Kentuckians who either contract with the federal government or work for a federal contractor,” Kentucky's Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, said in a statement.

Ohio and Tennessee joined in filing the lawsuit, which claims the vaccination requirement is unlawful and unconstitutional. The mandate requiring employees at federal contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has been set to take effect on Jan. 4.

“This is not a case about whether vaccines are effective. They are,” Van Tatenhove wrote. "Nor is this a case about whether the government, at some level, and in some circumstances, can require citizens to obtain vaccines. It can.

“The question presented here is narrow,” he said. “Can the president use congressionally delegated authority to manage the federal procurement of goods and services to impose vaccines on the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors? In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no.”

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