(The Center Square) - A federal court in the Western District of Louisiana has halted the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccination mandate for millions of health care workers.
Louisiana was one of 14 states that sued the administration after the vaccination mandate was implemented through the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier this month.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled Tuesday the agency overstepped its authority in requiring all full-time employees, part-time employees, volunteers, and contractors at health facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated by January 4.
Doughty issued a preliminary injunction that suspends the mandate nationwide while litigation on the matter continues.
"There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency," the decision reads. "It is not clear that even an Act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional. Certainly, CMS does not have this authority by a general authorization statue.
"This matter will ultimately be decided by a higher court than this one. However, it is important to preserve the status quo in this case. The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less."
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry helped lead the 14-state coalition against the mandate and said Tuesday's ruling was a victory against "bully tactics."
"I applaud Judge Doughty for recognizing that Louisiana is likely to succeed on the merits and for delivering yet another victory for the medical freedom of Americans," Landry said. "I will see this case through to the end - fighting every step of the way to prevent the federal government from imposing medical tyranny on our citizens and turning last year's healthcare heroes into this year's unemployed."
Other opposing attorneys general applauded the ruling, which comes on the heels of a similar injunction that halted the administration's employer vaccination mandate that was implemented through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). That ruling was issued in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
"In response to our lawsuit, a federal court has temporarily stopped the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers nationwide," Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said. "This decision reaffirms that Biden's mandate is unconstitutional, and we will continue to fight to protect the rights of Georgia's citizens."
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said: "The Biden Administration has struck out in court yet again," adding, "Our brave healthcare workers should not be subjected to such overreach by a President who wishes to rule by force."
CMS asserts the vaccination mandate is necessary to combat COVID-19 across health settings and claims unvaccinated staff risk transmitting the coronavirus to patients.
In a statement accompanying the Nov. 4 mandate, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said: "Today's action addresses the risk of unvaccinated health care staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation's health care system to strengthen the health of people and the providers who care for them.
"CMS's goal is to bring health care providers into compliance. However, the Agency will not hesitate to use its full enforcement authority to protect the health and safety of patients," she said.