COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center


Supreme Court of the United States. Opinions of the Court. Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.

Disclosures: Becerra and Biden report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 13, 2022
2 min read

SCOTUS blocks Biden’s vaccine mandate for private companies


Supreme Court of the United States. Opinions of the Court. Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.

Disclosures: Becerra and Biden report no relevant financial disclosures.
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The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private companies by a 6-3 vote. The mandate would have required employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly.

However, in a 5-4 decision, the court backed another mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for health workers at facilities receiving federal funds, which Biden said will be enforced.

Source: Adobe Stock.
The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private companies but backed a mandate for health care workers. Source: Adobe Stock.

Biden announced the mandates on Sept. 9 as part of his plan to fight a wave of infections caused by the delta variant. The mandate for private companies was suspended on Nov. 6 by a federal appeals court that said there was “cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

The first mandate would have required any private company with at least 100 employees to ensure that all workers are vaccinated or provide a weekly negative COVID-19 test.

In its ruling against the employee mandate, the court wrote: “Permitting [Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)] to regulate the hazards of daily life simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authority.”

It said “a vaccine mandate is strikingly unlike the workplace regulations that OSHA has typically imposed. A vaccination, after all, ‘cannot be undone at the end of the workday.’”

“[I]mposing a vaccine mandate on 84 million Americans in response to a worldwide pandemic is simply ‘not part of what the agency was built for,’” the justices wrote.

The ruling that backed mandated vaccinations for health care workers at facilities receiving federal funds cited HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, JD, who said that a vaccine mandate is “necessary to promote and protect patient health and safety.”

“The rule thus fits neatly within the language of the statute,” the justices wrote. “After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm.”

In a statement, Biden said the mandate for health care workers will cover 10.4 million workers at 76,000 medical facilities. He expressed disappointment in the other ruling.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said. “This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden.”

According to Biden, it is now up to states and individual employers to make workplaces as safe as possible.

“The court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as president to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” he said.