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10 states sue Biden administration over COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers

President Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Ten states are filing a lawsuit over the administration's rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated.
President Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Ten states are filing a lawsuit over the administration's rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated.

A group of 10 states has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration and its requirement that health care workers in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the mandate is "unconstitutional and unlawful."

Led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, the 10 states say the mandatory nationwide vaccine requirement will lead to shortages of health care workers and could threaten the jobs of "millions of health care workers" who risked their lives during the beginning stages of the pandemic.

In addition to Missouri and Nebraska, attorneys general from Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire also joined the lawsuit.

"Unfortunately, with this latest mandate from the Biden Administration, last year's healthcare heroes are turning into this year's unemployed. Requiring healthcare workers to get a vaccination or face termination is unconstitutional and unlawful, and could exacerbate healthcare staffing shortages to the point of collapse, especially in Missouri's rural areas," Schmitt said in a news release.

He says his office has been challenging the Biden administration's "illegal edicts" and this is the latest.

"This case illustrates why the police power over compulsory vaccination has always been the province of — and still properly belongs to — the States," the attorneys general argued in their lawsuit.

The 58-page lawsuit argues the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate is intruding on states' police power, saying it's a violation of several acts and rights, including the Administrative Procedures Act, the Social Security Act, the Tenth Amendment and federalism.

"By ignoring the facts on the ground and unreasonably dismissing concerns about workforce short­ages, the CMS vaccine mandate jeopardizes the healthcare interests of rural Americans," the lawsuit says.

In September, President Biden unveiled a series of steps to combat the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, announcing that 17 million health care workers at hospitals and elsewhere that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding would have to be vaccinated.

Last week, CMS issued an interim final rule requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers in most settings — such as hospitals and health systems — that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The new requirements, which went into effect Nov. 5, will apply to approximately 76,000 providers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.