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Court partially lifts ban on federal vaccine mandates

12 September, 2022

If you think we’re done litigating about the COVID vaccine, well… no. Multiple sources have reported that a federal appeals court partially lifted the ban on federal contractor vaccine mandates. This means that President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors can, in certain circumstances, be reinstated … for the moment anyway.

According to an article published by the Federal News Network, the appeals court found that the lower court, a Georgia District Court, overplayed its hand by applying the injunction nationwide, and ruled that the court’s injunction could only be applied to the parties that sued. This would include the states of Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. It also bars enforcement against members of Associated Builders and Contractors or any of their subcontractors on federal projects, as they joined the lawsuit as well.

Because the ABC has over 21,000 member companies, this ruling, according to published reports, affects nearly a million construction workers who won’t have to comply with a vaccine mandate.

It's not over until it’s over
 The article also predicts that this victory for the Biden camp is temporary, and that the court may rule in the future that the president does not have the power to mandate vaccines.

And this doesn’t mean that things will change overnight. It’s been nine months since the original ruling, which means the government would have to re-up on how it would enforce the mandate, and exactly who they would target — what contracts and/or contractors would be required to comply. Also since the court ruling means the mandate is blocked in some states but not in others, the federal government would have to go through a maze of bureaucracy to impose its mandate. 

Other states have barred the vaccine mandate on their home turf: Kentucky, Arizona, Ohio and Tennessee, for example. The Arizona case is under appeal. The main issue at stake, according to one of the judges on the case, is whether the Procurement Act gives the president authority to impose such measures.

Construction workers still resistant
An article published in Safety and Health Magazine reports that construction workers still lag behind other industries in getting vaccinated. While for most industries, the vaccination rate was about 81%, construction workers hovered around 52%. According to the article, workers surveyed reported the following reasons for resisting the jab:

•    Distrust of COVID-19 vaccines (61.4%)
•    Distrust of the government (59.2%)
•    Don’t need a vaccine (58.7%)
•    Worried about side effects (55.8%)

However, there may have been significant consequences as a result. The article continued that since the start of the pandemic, reports of non-fatal illnesses among construction workers jumped substantially, for example, the article states, “The number of nonfatal respiratory illnesses increased to 5,300 in 2020 from an annual average of 425 from 2016 to 2019.”

Center for Construction Research and Training, which provided information to “Safety and Health” for its article, concluded that these statistics among others show the importance of the COVID vaccine in maintaining a healthy workforce. “The dramatic increases in nonfatal respiratory illnesses among construction workers highlight the pandemic’s impact on construction worker safety and health and the need for vaccinations,” it stated.

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