Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Blocked by Federal Judge: 

On November 30, President’ Biden’s mandate requiring hospital and nursing home workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 was blocked by a federal judge, according to a New York Times article. With his issuing of a preliminary injunction, Judge Terry A. Doughty of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, has taken a preliminary legal step toward ending the national mandate.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” said Doughty. “It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.” The judge added that the plaintiffs had an interest in preventing the loss of jobs and tax revenue that may result from the mandate.

Despite many being in favor of workers receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in order to protect residents, from the time the mandate was announced in August, nursing homes already coping with staff shortages feared the regulation would impel vaccine hesitant nursing home employees to find employment elsewhere in healthcare not covered by the mandate. But with the loss of federal Medicare and Medicaid funding on the line for facilities not in compliance with the mandate—a loss that would be crippling for most homes—many nursing homes felt they had little choice but to comply.

With this past summer’s surge of the Delta variant in nursing homes, many states and cities across the nation had set their own mandates for healthcare workers. Philadelphia’s mandate prompted a 30.3 percent increase in healthcare worker vaccinations so that, as of November, the vaccination rate among Philadelphia healthcare workers stood at 90.8 percent. The Times puts the national immunization rate for nursing home workers at 74 percent, although certain regions of the country have much lower rates.

The Biden Administration’s mandate was met with opposition by various states fearing its impact on state budgets and the potential to intensify health care worker shortages, including a lawsuit brought by Louisiana and 13 other states. Just prior to the vaccine mandate for health care workers being blocked by federal judge Doughty, a federal court in Missouri issued a similar order relating to a 10-state lawsuit against the mandate.

Responding to the court decisions, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid stated, “While we cannot comment on the litigation, CMS has remained committed to protecting the health and safety of beneficiaries and health care workers. The vaccine requirement for health care workers addresses the risk of unvaccinated health care staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation’s health care system.”

Fighting for Your Loved One

Ensuring adequate, quality staffing is among the measures Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes should take to preserve its residents against nursing home neglect or abuse . Philadelphia/PA and NJ nursing homes are required by law to meet specific health and safety requirements and to provide such care as to secure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.