Sun | May 22, 2022

Biden administration officially withdraws vaccine rule

Published:Tuesday | January 25, 2022 | 4:56 PM
Protesters gather for a rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Sunday, January 23, 2022. On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, the Biden administration said it has officially withdrawn a rule that would have required workers at big companies to get vaccinated or face regular COVID testing requirements. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Biden administration has officially withdrawn a rule that would have required workers at big companies to get vaccinated or face regular COVID testing requirements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the withdrawal Tuesday.

But the agency said it still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.

In early November, OSHA announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. The rule, which would have impacted more than 80 million US workers,  was originally set to go into effect on January 4.

But numerous states and business groups challenged the rule in court.

On January 13, the Supreme Court halted the plan.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court's conservative majority concluded that OSHA had overstepped its authority.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress,″ the court's majority wrote.

"Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”

The justices left in place a vaccine mandate for health care providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding.

That rule affects 10.4 million workers.

US corporations have been split over whether to mandate employee vaccinations. United Airlines began requiring vaccines in August; the company says 99% of its workers have been vaccinated or have requested medical or religious exemptions.

Tyson Foods, which also announced a mandate in August, says 96% of its workers were vaccinated by a Nov. 1 deadline.

But other big businesses, including Starbucks and General Electric, scrapped previously announced vaccine mandates for their employees after the Supreme Court's ruling.

OSHA indicated that the rule could return in some form.

While it is no longer an enforceable standard, it remains a proposed rule, OSHA said. For now, the agency said it will prioritise the health care mandate.

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