Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, stated that the Biden administration is “prepared to defend” sweeping new coronavirus vaccine guidelines for major corporations in the face of fresh legal challenges.
Last week, the agency set Jan. 4 as the deadline for organisations with 100 or more employees to compel Covid vaccines or adopt weekly worker testing.
“The president and the administration would not have imposed these criteria if they did not believe they were acceptable and essential,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Dr. Murthy cited the country’s history as precedent: In 1777, George Washington ordered that troops be immunised against smallpox.
The far-reaching change has already sparked legal challenges, with opponents claiming that the requirement is unconstitutional. On Friday, a coalition of companies, religious groups, advocacy organisations, and six states petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana, claiming that the administration exceeded its power.
On Saturday, a panel of the court temporarily halted the new requirement, noting that “the petitions offer grounds to suspect that the mandate has substantial legislative and constitutional difficulties.”
The stay has little immediate effect because the rule’s first big deadline is December 5, when organisations with at least 100 employees must force unvaccinated staff to wear masks indoors. However, the move gives opponents of the mandate a boost.
The legal challenge calls into question whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the jurisdiction to make the regulation, or if such a mandate requires congressional approval.
It was unclear if the delay was merely a technical hiccup for the Biden administration or the first step in the mandate’s unravelling. On Friday, a separate case was filed against the requirement in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis.
So far, legal challenges to vaccination requirements have been unsuccessful.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said he was “very certain” the mandate will be honoured.
“If OSHA can instruct individuals to wear a hard hat on the job and to be cautious near chemicals, it can put in place these simple safeguards to keep our workers safe,” Mr. Klain explained.