Biden Vax Mandate For Federal Employees Blocked

The Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees has once again been blocked in court—at least for now—as a federal appeals court ruled Monday it will rehear the case and threw out its previous decision that upheld the vaccine requirement.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the vaccine mandate in April, after a district court judge blocked the requirement in January, siding with the anti-vaccine organizations and federal employees who brought a lawsuit challenging it.

The court accepted a request Monday from the challengers to rehear the case en banc, which means that the court will issue a judgment from all the judges on the appeals court, rather than a panel of a few judges, as was the case with the April ruling.

Because they’re rehearing the case, the court dissolved its ruling from April, which means the district judge’s ruling blocking the mandate will now be reimposed as the case moves forward.

The 5th Circuit—known to be one of the most conservative courts in the country—set a hearing for the week of September 12, meaning the mandate will remain blocked at least until then.

The order likely won’t have any practical effect immediately, as multiple outlets report the Biden administration had delayed reimposing the mandate given the ongoing litigation.

The Justice Department and the White House’s Office of Personnel Management have not yet responded to requests for comment.

More than 3.5 million. That’s the number of federal employees who would be covered by the vaccine mandate, the White House said in December. As of December—before the vaccine requirement was first blocked in court—the Biden administration reported 92.5% of employees had received at least one vaccine dose and 4.7% had received an exemption or extension, or had applied for one.

On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring all federal workers to be vaccinated by November 22. The mandate was one of several the Biden administration imposed as a way to combat vaccine hesitancy and curb the spread of Covid-19, along with vaccine requirements for healthcare workers, large private employers and federal contractors. The mandates immediately came under significant criticism and were challenged in court. With Monday’s ruling, only the requirement for healthcare workers remains in effect. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that mandate, which applies to healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, in January, but struck down the large employer mandate, ruling the federal government exceeded its authority by imposing it. A district judge blocked the vaccine requirement for federal contractors in December, and an appeals court is now weighing whether or not it should be reimposed.

Reporting from Forbes.