A US federal appeals court froze President Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandate on Saturday, citing “grave statutory and constitutional” issues with the order.
The mandate, which Biden first announced in September, will affect over 100 million workers in the United States. He announced on Thursday that his new vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 workers will be place starting on January 4, 2022.
The order faced massive push back, especially from Republican-led states, when it was announced in October. It was expected to face challenges in the court.
Biden vaccine mandate faces court challenges
Despite the stay issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Seema Nanda, US Solicitor of Labor, is “confident in its legal authority,” as written in a statement.
The ruling came after businesses and the states of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Utah petitioned the court to rule on the mandate.
The Biden administration has until Monday afternoon to respond to the ruling.
The mandate has two separate sections that affect certain workers differently. The first part pertains to companies that employ 100 or more people, and requires that these workplaces get their employees fully vaccinated by the deadline, or submit unvaccinated employees to weekly Covid testing.
This section of the mandate was given by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and OSHA also stipulates that companies are required to compensate their workers for the time they spent getting the shots. It will apply to roughly 80 million workers.
But the rule also says that employers are not required to pay for the testing of unvaccinated employees that refuse the shots. This is widely seen as a tactic to encourage affected workers to take the route of vaccination.
The second part of the new mandate which affects health care workers differs from the first part in that these workers do not have the option to test out weekly. A total of 17 million health care workers must provide proof of full vaccination against Covid by January 4.
President argues that mandates work
Biden cited the need for vaccine mandates when he announced his plan in October.
“We have to do more to vaccinate the 66 million unvaccinated people in America; it’s essential. Vaccine requirements that we started rolling out in the summer are working,” Biden said in a statement on vaccine mandates.
“The plan I laid out in September is working. We’re heading in the right direction. We have critical work to do but we can’t let up now,” he added.
“I’m calling on more businesses to step up, I’m calling on more parents to get their children vaccinated when they are eligible. And I’m asking everyone, everyone who hasn’t gotten vaccinated: get vaccinated. That’s how we put this pandemic behind us and accelerate our economic recovery.”
Biden pointed to recent COVID-19 data showing that cases had dropped by 47% and hospitalizations by 38% across the country since mandates have been introduced.