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The Biden administration is “prepared to defend” the federal vaccine rules for large employers as new legal challenges unfold, Vivek Murthy, MD, the U.S. surgeon general, said Sunday.
“The president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary, and the administration is certainly prepared to defend them,” Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Murthy pointed out the historical precedent of vaccination campaigns in the country. George Washington, for instance, required troops to be inoculated against smallpox in 1777. And schools began requiring vaccinations in the 1800s, he noted.
“It’s important we take every measure possible to make our workplaces safer,” Murthy said. “It’s good for people’s health, it’s good for the economy, and that’s why these requirements make so much sense.”
On Thursday, the Biden administration set Jan. 4 as the deadline for companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or implement weekly testing. The new federal rules view COVID-19 as an occupational hazard.
The mandate allows for medical or religious exemptions, but companies that fail to comply may be fined, according to The New York Times .
The Biden administration’s order has faced legal challenges, with opponents arguing that the requirement is unconstitutional. At least 27 states have filed lawsuits against the rule.
On Friday, a group of businesses, religious groups, advocacy groups, and several states filed a petition in Louisiana that said the administration overstepped its authority.
On Saturday, a panel of the court ruled on the petition and temporarily blocked the mandate. Judges wrote that the “petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”
But the block doesn’t have an immediate effect, the newspaper reported, since the first major deadline in the rule is Dec. 5, when companies must require unvaccinated employees to wear masks indoors.
The Biden administration plans to challenge the court’s temporary block, the newspaper reported. It isn’t yet clear whether the back-and-forth court procedures will cause temporary hiccups or lead judges to overrule the mandate before Jan. 4.
So far, many legal challenges to vaccine mandates across the country have fallen short, according to The Times.
Also on Sunday, Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, said he was “quite confident” that the mandate would be upheld in court.
“I’m quite confident that when this finally gets fully adjudicated, not just a temporary order, the validity of this requirement will be upheld,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“It’s common sense,” he continued. “If OSHA can tell people to wear a hard hat on the job to be careful around chemicals, it can put in place these simple measures to keep our workers safe.”
ABC News: “‘This Week’ Transcript 11-7-21: Dr. Vivek Murthy.”
The New York Times: “The Biden administration is ‘prepared to defend’ the vaccine rules for big employers, the surgeon general says.”
NBC News: “Meet the Press – November 7, 2021.”
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