These days, efforts by the federal government to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for various groups seem like ancient history. Nevertheless, federal courts continue hearing challenges to the mandates filed by state governments, as well as business and religious interest groups. On December 19, 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court’s injunction of President Biden’s Executive Order that mandates vaccinations for employees of certain federal contractors.
In Louisiana v. Biden, a 2-1 Fifth Circuit panel held that the President exceeded his statutory authority under the Procurement Act in mandating vaccinations. The majority found little indication under that law that Congress intended to authorize issuance of broad public health measures that affect personal healthcare decisions. The court distinguished this law from the mandate issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, noting the clear public health authority granted under that agency’s enabling legislation.
This decision echoed an earlier one from the Eleventh Circuit. While these decisions only apply to contractors located in the states that challenged the order, they make enforcement against any federal contractor significantly less likely.