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Where do federal vaccine mandates stand after judges issue injunctions?

An attorney told WAVE 3 News it is unconstitutional for the federal government to issue vaccine mandates. Instead, that decision should be left up to the states
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 5:02 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On Tuesday, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a temporary injunction blocking the federal vaccine mandate nationwide for U.S. workers in healthcare settings that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding; a Kentucky federal judge did the same for the vaccine mandate for federal contractors after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron led a lawsuit challenging the requirement.

The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove temporarily stops the federal government from mandating vaccines for federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

In the ruling, Tatenhove wrote the case is not about “whether vaccines are effective,” or “whether the government, at some level, in some circumstances can require vaccines.”

Instead, he wrote the case is about whether the President has the authority to impose vaccines on federal contractors and subcontractors.

“In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no,” Tatenhove wrote.

The ruling temporarily blocking the federal vaccine mandate for certain healthcare workers applies nationwide.

U.S. District Court Judge Kayla McClusky declared the mandate unconstitutional and wrote, “During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties.”

Attorney Chris Wiest agreed. He told WAVE 3 News it is unconstitutional for the federal government to issue vaccine mandates. Instead, that decision should be left up to the states.

“The federal government is not this all-encompassing powerful body that can do everything and be everything,” Wiest said. “In fact, it’s supposed to have limited powers, and most of the police powers are relegated to the states, and that’s been the arguments of a lot of the parties.”

Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) requirement that companies with more than 100 employees either vaccinate or test their workers weekly is held up in court, and isn’t currently in effect either.

“A lot of people have asked me the question, ‘What does this mean because my employer has a mandate?’” Wiest said. “And my response to that is, ‘If your employer (has a vaccine mandate) on their own because they want to do it, I don’t think this changes anything. If your employer is doing it because there was some federal mandate or some federal gun to their head that was requiring them to do it, I would expect those employers to reevaluate this in light of the changing legal landscape.”

Wiest anticipates the Department of Justice will appeal the injunctions, and the constitutionality of the federal vaccine mandates will ultimately be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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