Biden's Covid vaccine mandate reinstated for large US businesses

18 December 2021, 10:24 | Updated: 18 December 2021, 10:26

Joe Biden's plans to make vaccines compulsory for staff at large businesses will come into effect.
Joe Biden's plans to make vaccines compulsory for staff at large businesses will come into effect. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

An appeals court in the US has ruled Joe Biden's plans to make vaccines compulsory for staff at large businesses can take effect.

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The mandate will require workers at private companies with more than 100 employees to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or be tested weekly, and could affect some 84 million US workers.

It follows a US federal appeals court panel ruling that Mr Biden's vaccine mandate for larger private employers can come into force.

Read more: 'Our patience is wearing thin': Biden announces vaccine requirements for 100m Americans

The 2-1 ruling from a panel of judges on the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reverses a lower-court ruling that had paused the requirement.

It had been blocked by a court ruling last month, with critics citing "grave statutory and constitutional" issues.

Republican-led states and conservative groups are challenging the rule, which would apply to companies with at least 100 employees and affect some 84 million workers across the US.

Opponents have vowed to appeal Friday's ruling to the US Supreme Court.

The mandate was originally scheduled to take effect on January 4.

Read more: Austria announces full lockdown and mandatory Covid jabs

Read more: Covid vaccines 'to be mandatory for frontline NHS staff in England'

With Friday’s ruling, it’s not clear when the requirement might be put in place, but the White House said in a statement that it will protect workers: “Especially as the US faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.”

In addition to its vaccine and testing regulations, the mandate also requires companies to determine which of their employees are vaccinated, and to enforce a mask mandate among unvaccinated workers.

It was issued by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in November. OSHA argued that it could save more than 6,500 lives and prevent a quarter of a million hospitalizations during the six months it would be in effect.

Some countries have gone a step further, making Covid vaccines mandatory for all citizens.

Austria was the first country in Europe to introduce the mandate in November, along with a national Covid lockdown.