Federal Judges Put Mandatory Vaccination Rules on Hold for Health Care Providers and Federal Contractors

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On Tuesday, a Louisiana federal district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from implementing or enforcing regulations requiring employees of many health care providers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than January 4. The challenge to the CMS rule was filed by a coalition of 14 states. This decision follows a similar injunction issued Monday by a federal court in Missouri that applies in 10 additional states (none in the Southeast) that filed a joint challenge to the rules.

The Louisiana judge concluded that CMS exceeded its statutory authority in issuing the regulations. The Missouri decision noted that vaccination mandates have traditionally been left to states rather than the federal government. Finally, the judge in that case stated that the mandate was overbroad because it included health care workers in facilities where there was little proven danger of COVID-19 spread, and that it could lead to staffing shortages in others.

CMS will certainly seek appellate review of this decision, and like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccinate-or-test rule, the final word on the regulations will likely be given by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, a federal district court in Kentucky issued a similar injunction against mandatory vaccination rules for federal contractors and subcontractors. Again, the court held that the executive order upon which the rules were issued exceeds presidential authority over federal procurement. The injunction is limited and only affects contractors located in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. This decision will be appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is also the designated federal circuit hearing the challenges to the OSHA vaccinate-or-test regulations.

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