A U.S. judge has declared that the Biden administration lacked the authority to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on volunteers and workers in federal childcare programs. Head Start, which serves children from low-income families, was one of the programs affected, with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instructing its employees to get vaccinated from early 2022. According to the Head Start Act, the health secretary can add “administrative and financial management standards,” “standards relating to the condition and location of facilities,” and other standards deemed appropriate. However, the act does not mention vaccinations, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who claimed that enacting the mandate was beyond its scope. U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix agreed that the mandate went too far in trying to incorporate vaccination standards into Head Start’s statutory language and strike down the measure.
Biden’s administration refused to withdraw the mandate despite having been struck down in 24 states by a different judge. In the absence of the necessary public notice and consultation with stakeholders, HHS’s efforts to shoehorn the vaccine mandate into Head Start’s administrative, financial, and facility-management standards were deemed unreasonable, according to Hendrix. He also observed that the mandate could only be enforced via congressional legislation, noting that “an agency can do only what Congress authorizes it to do.” As a result, the ruling abrogates the mandate. Officials from HHS and the U.S. Department of Justice, however, refused to comment on the decision.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is one of the plaintiffs and a Republican, hailed the court’s decision as a victory in his crusade to end “Biden’s troubling policies of medical tyranny.” The COVID-19 vaccines, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, do not prevent transmission or infection, despite observational data suggesting they have a modest effect on both that may become unfavorable over time. Nonprofit entity the National Head Start Association welcomed the decision, indicating that it would allow programs to reclaim their autonomy and serve children and families via a safe, healthy, and community-driven approach.
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