Nov. 30, 2021 — A federal judge ruled Monday that the Biden administration cannot enforce a rule requiring virtually all health care workers in 10 states to become vaccinated against COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp of Missouri issued a preliminary injunction that will remain in place while the vaccine mandate works its way through the court system, likely ending up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Nov. 4 that workers in health care facilities that receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face losing their jobs. The requirement covers 76,000 providers and more than 17 million health care workers, the CMS said in a news release. Health care workers were supposed to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

Attorneys general for Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire immediately filed a lawsuit, saying only Congress had that power to issue such a requirement.

The judge, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, agreed with that argument, calling the CMS action a “politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate.”

“CMS seeks to overtake an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to federally dictate the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism,” Schelp wrote in his order.

The plaintiffs also contended the CMS rule would cause millions of health care workers to lose their jobs and create a shortage of health care workers in rural areas.

The Biden administration did not immediately respond to the judge’s order, but in the past has said it would appeal all such rulings.

Other lawsuits have been filed over similar vaccine mandates. A three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction blocking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandate for organizations and companies with 100 or more employees. OSHA said it would not administer the mandate while judicial review is under way.

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