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Youngkin and Miyares announce plans to challenge federal vaccine mandates

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Youngkin walking across Capitol Square

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin walks across Capitol Square in Richmond last month. 

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin and incoming Attorney General Jason Miyares will “challenge” vaccine mandates passed down by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other federal agencies.

The plans, announced in a Friday news release, come as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on whether the mandates should go into effect even while they’re challenged by at least two dozen states in federal appeals courts. Both Miyares and Youngkin openly opposed state and federal mandates on the campaign trail, but the announcement solidifies their policy stance as the requirement continues to face legal challenges.

President Joe Biden first announced the mandate in November. Under federal emergency regulations, any health care facilities that accepted CMS funding would have been required to implement a staff vaccine mandate by this month. A similar regulation, adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would have required companies with 100 or more employees to adopt vaccine or weekly testing mandates for workers.  

“Instead of supporting state and local governments’ efforts to protect the lives and livelihoods of their citizens, the Biden administration has resorted to unlawful vaccine mandates that force hardworking Virginians to walk away from their paychecks,” Youngkin and Miyares said in a statement. 

“While we believe that the vaccine is a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, we strongly believe that the federal government cannot impose its will and restrict the freedoms of Americans and that Virginia is at its best when her people are allowed to make the best decisions for their families or businesses,” they added.

Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for the Youngkin team, did not immediately clarify how the incoming administration planned to challenge the law. The issue could be already be decided by the time Youngkin and Miyares are sworn in depending on how quickly the Supreme Court makes a decision on the case.

If the mandates are permitted to go into effect, it’s likely Miyares would follow other states by filing a lawsuit against the CMS regulations or similar requirements adopted by Head Start, a national early education program. Head Start’s vaccine mandate has also been blocked amid ongoing legal battles.

Many large health systems in Virginia adopted their own staff vaccine mandates even before Biden’s announcement. A significant exception has been Ballad Health, the primary hospital system in Southwest Virginia, which has long held that a vaccination requirement would worsen existing worker shortages.

The system adopted a mandate after Biden’s announcement, but repealed the decision after legal challenges halted enforcement of the rule.

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