Biden Administration Goes to Supreme Court in Effort to Find Support For Vaccine Mandate

The Biden administration requested help from the Supreme Court on Thursday, asking the Court to block orders from lower courts that are halting President Joe Biden's COVID vaccination mandate for health care workers in 24 states.

The mandate, for an estimated 17 million health care workers to receive at least a first dose of a vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, is currently on hold in 24 states after a series of legal challenges and rulings across the country.

Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans lifted a nationwide ban on the mandate that was enacted by a Nov. 30 ruling from U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, and allowed the mandate to stay in place in 14 states that had previously challenged the mandate with a federal lawsuit filed in Louisiana.

A November ruling from a Missouri judge that halted the mandate in 10 states is also still in place, since the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis has declined to rule against it.

The Biden administration is asking the court to reverse the rulings blocking the mandate to allow the "urgently needed health and safety measure to take effect before the winter spike in COVID-19 cases worsens further," and said the mandate "will save hundreds or even thousands of lives each month," according to The Associated Press.

The Court has ruled in favor of vaccine mandates in recent weeks. It allowed enforcement of a New York mandate for health care workers that did not contain religious exemptions to continue and refused to block a similar mandate for health care workers in Maine.

Three conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissented in each case.

Supreme Court, Biden Administration, Vaccine Mandate
The Supreme Court is seen on the first day of the new term, in Washington, Oct. 4, 2021 photo. The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court Thursday to reverse the lower court rulings currently blocking the vaccine mandate for health care workers from going into effect in 24 states. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press File

The Biden administration asked the justices to allow the mandate to take effect in the 24 states covered by those two courts' decisions. A federal judge in Texas granted an injunction Wednesday that applies only to that state.

One other appeals court, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, allowed the mandate to remain in place, saying Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has the authority to require the vaccines.

At issue before the Supreme Court is a rule published Nov. 5 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that applies to a wide range of health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It was projected to affect more than 17 million workers in about 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The mandate has religious and medical exemptions.

Legal challenges to Biden's vaccine mandate for private employers are also ongoing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.