Federal appeals court reaffirms its decision to freeze Biden's vaccine mandate

A child receives a dose of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine at an event launching school vaccinations in Los Angeles, California on November 5.

By Ariane de Vogue and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) -- A federal appeals court on Friday reaffirmed its earlier decision to freeze the Biden administration's vaccine mandate, calling the requirement for large employers to make sure its employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 "staggeringly overbroad."

In a blistering 22-page opinion, the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the vaccine mandate issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is "fatally flawed" and both "overinclusive" and "underinclusive."

"Indeed, the Mandate's strained prescriptions combine to make it the rare government pronouncement that is both overinclusive (applying to employers and employees in virtually all industries and workplaces in America, with little attempt to account for the obvious differences between the risks facing, say, a security guard on a lonely night shift, and a meatpacker working shoulder to shoulder in a cramped warehouse) and underinclusive (purporting to save employees with 99 or more coworkers from a 'grave danger' in the workplace, while making no attempt to shield employees with 98 or fewer coworkers from the very same threat)," the court wrote.

The conservative-dominated court last Saturday temporarily blocked the OSHA rule that requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or undergo regular testing and wear face masks in the workplace.

OSHA, which falls under the US Labor Department, earlier this month unveiled the vaccine rules that were set to take effect January 4.

The mandate has come under challenge from Republican-led states and some private employers, who say OSHA overstepped its authority in issuing such a rule, but also from labor unions, who argue in some instances that the mandate doesn't go far enough to protect workers.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, however, could be dissolved as early as next week when all of the pending challenges against OSHA rules are consolidated into one federal appeals court through a process known as the "multicircuit lottery."

On Tuesday, the DC-based Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will conduct the multicircuit lottery. The names of the circuit courts where there are currently legal challenges to the mandate will literally be placed in a raffle drum, and an official will pull out the name of a circuit court, where all the cases will then be transferred.

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