The Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Vaccine Mandate—Except for Health Care Workers

“As disease and death continue to mount,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”

People protest vaccine mandates in New York City in October 2021.John Lamparski/NurPhoto/Zuma

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Unless you work in health care, federal vaccine mandates are off.

In two decisions handed down Thursday afternoon, the Supreme Court blocked a rule requiring workers at large businesses to either get vaccinated or get tested weekly, but upheld a mandate that certain health care workers be vaccinated.

All six conservative judges voted to block the vaccine-or-test rule for workers at companies with 100 or more staffers, arguing that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration didn’t have the authority to impose public health measures. In their dissent, the three liberal justices argued that OSHA’s rule enacted the agency’s core mission: “to ‘protect employees’ from ‘grave danger’ that comes from ‘new hazards’ or exposure to harmful agents.”

But, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding could continue requiring workers to be vaccinated. While Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett all argued that the government wasn’t entitled to impose the mandate, the majority of the bench found that the Health and Human Services rule fell within the organization’s “core mission” to ensure that health care providers “protect their patients’ health and safety.”

If it had been allowed to take effect, Biden’s vaccine mandate would have applied to about 84 million workers and prevented a quarter million hospitalizations and 6,500 deaths over the next six months, per OSHA’s calculations. The liberal justices said that the ruling usurps a decision that federal officials were entitled to make. “In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed,” they wrote. “As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate