Michele Catinella, a Nurse Practitioner at the John Knox Village Continuing Care Retirement Community receives a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine from Carmen Pi, a registered nurse with American Medical Response on Dec. 16, 2020 in Pompano Beach, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled otherwise last month, but Louisiana’s attorney general is once again trying to get a court to block the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities that accept federal funding. Republican Jeff Landry calls the requirement a “job-killing directive” that is not proven to stop the spread of the virus.
The vaccine mandate applies to health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid payments. In the 24 states that unsuccessfully challenged the mandate, impacted employees will have to prove they have started the vaccine series or received approved exemption by Feb. 14, and they will need to be fully vaccinated by March 15. In states that didn’t challenge the mandate, the deadline for health care workers to be fulling vaccinated is Feb. 28.
Louisiana is one of 16 states where the current challenge is taking place based on what Landry called “new guidance” from the federal government issued after the Jan. 13 Supreme Court decision. In his statement, the attorney general said the Biden administration has “imposed a brand-new vaccine mandate on state employees who survey and report whether Medicare and Medicaid facilities are complying with applicable regulations, including the mandate itself.”
Landry’s statement said the looming mandate is “causing havoc in the healthcare labor market across the nation – especially in rural communities – and does not account for the pandemic’s changing circumstances.”
“The CMS vaccination rule remains a misguided, one-size-fits-all, job-killing directive that does not account for any change in circumstances – including how the vaccines do not stop the transmission of the Omicron variant,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “What’s more: the federal government has now made clear that it expects the states to implement this flawed policy with state employees. So I will continue fighting this ill-advised invasion of individual autonomy and my state’s rights.”
Recent studies show two versions of the COVID-19 vaccine enhance immune cell protection against the Omicron variant. The Centers for Disease Control has said no vaccine is 100% effective at stopping disease transmission. Its findings show vaccinated individuals are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms from COVID-19 and typically avoid hospitalization.
Landry’s statement mentions research, without citing a source, that shows “standard COVID-19 vaccinations provide little protection against transmission of the Omicron variant.” The attorney general also claims “federal authorities have begun to walk back prior claims about the efficacy of the vaccines against this now-dominant variant” but with no further context.
There is widespread scientific acceptance that COVID-19 boosters enhance protection against variants of the virus, including Omicron, but how often boosters will be needed is still undetermined.
Landry’s complaint to block the mandate was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. Other states involved in the challenge are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
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