The US Supreme Court has blocked the government from imposing vaccine mandates that would have covered more than 80 million employees.
The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate – announced last September – came into effect on Monday this week (10 January), requiring employees in businesses of more than 100 people to show proof of vaccination or face weekly testing.
However, conservative justices in the Supreme Court ensured the ruling was overturned, voting 6-3 that the requirement was too broad to regulate workplace safety.
They claimed it could not fall under the authority of the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
“Covid-19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather,” they argued. “That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases.”
They claimed it was a “significant encroachment on the lives – and health – of a vast number of employees”.
The three opposing justices claimed the Court had overstepped its authority by trying to overrule health experts.
The proposed mandate has attracted criticism ever since its introduction, with lobby groups claiming it would have increased costs and bureaucracy for employers.
The Biden administration claimed it would have saved around 6,500 lives and prevented 250,000 hospital admissions over six months. A number of US employers have introduced their own vaccine mandates separate from the requirement.
The Supreme Court also debated a rule concerning a vaccine mandate for healthcare staff in government-funded settings, which passed by five votes to four. This will apply to around 17 million workers.
Responding to the vote, President Biden said he was disappointed at the decision “to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees”.
He added: “I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”
Former President Donald Trump embraced the decision, claiming the mandate “would have further destroyed the economy”.
“We are proud of the Supreme Court for not backing down,” he said in a statement. “No mandates!”
Just over 62% of the US population is now fully vaccinated, according to official statistics.