Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for health care workers in Alaska and 9 other states

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 9:48 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The President Joe Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers in Alaska and nine other states is being blocked by a federal judge.

The preliminary injunction by St. Louis Based U.S. district judge Matthew Schelp applies to Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The issued order by the judge said Congress did not grant the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services authority to mandate the vaccine.

This decision comes a little more than two weeks after the state of Alaska joined a lawsuit filed in Missouri pushing back on the mandate and what they called federal overreach.

Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor called Monday’s ruling a “great win” for Alaska and the nine other participating states.

“The idea is we feel strongly about personal liberty, and we felt this was an affront to civil liberty,” Taylor said.

He also called it an affront to state’s rights.

“We felt that the CMS mandate violated the 10th Amendment, which, you know, gives the states the power over anything not guaranteed to the federal government in the ... U.S. Constitution, or prohibited to the states under the U.S. Constitution,” Taylor said.

Some of Alaska’s largest hospitals like Providence Alaska Medical Center and Alaska Native Medical Center have already implemented vaccine mandates for their employees.

Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association CEO and President Jared Kosin said this decision will impact the hospitals that haven’t required COVID-19 vaccines and were in the process of complying with the federal mandate. For weeks, Kosin said hospitals without requirements have been preparing employees to comply with the mandate.

“And now the question is, what are they going to do?” Kosin said.

He said many facilities in Alaska have been investing time up to this point to plan to be in compliance and create protocols, including exemptions.

“All of this work has been done to come into compliance and now this just creates another disruption,” Kosin said. “Which during a pandemic, disruptions are not things we particularly care to deal with.”

Nationally, the federal vaccine mandate will impact staff at health care facilities that get funding from the two government health programs. It has a deadline of Dec. 6 for a first dose and all staff had to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

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