Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and 21 other state attorneys general filed a petition last week with the federal government to repeal its health care worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The petition, filed Thursday under the Administrative Procedures Act, requests the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take immediate action to repeal its Interim Final Rule (IFR) and State Surveyor Guidance, which require participating healthcare facilities to "develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all staff are fully vaccinated for COVID-19." 

"Just over a year ago, CMS rushed to impose the IFR on millions of healthcare workers," Marshall and the other state attorneys general wrote in the petition. "And it relied on a purported emergency—the rapid spread of the Delta variant—to sidestep the Administrative Procedure Act's notice-and-comment requirements, even though it was unsure if the vaccines would prevent transmission. But evidence available at that time, and evidence that has emerged since, demonstrates that full vaccination doesn't prevent infection or transmission. Delta is long gone, replaced by the milder, more transmissible Omicron variant, which is even more resistant to vaccines. Breakthrough infections are common. And to make matters worse, studies increasingly show heightened health risks associated with the vaccines. Yet the outdated emergency IFR remains in force. The emergency IFR intensified existing staffing shortages, especially in rural and frontier States. The result was a double-edged sword. On one side, the IFR modestly reduced patients' risk of contracting COVID. But on the other side, the IFR significantly limited many patients' access to needed medical care. The IFR imposed substantial costs on patients and healthcare workers without any corresponding benefits."

Marshall and the other state attorneys general stated in the petition that "even if the IFR made sense at one time, it has long since outlived its utility. CMS should cast the IFR and all related guidance in the trash bin where it belongs."

The Supreme Court upheld the rule by CMS in a 5-4 decision in January, declaring that CMS has the authority to enforce the mandate. 

"The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is extremely pleased the Supreme Court recognized CMS' authority to set a consistent COVID-19 vaccination standard for workers in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid," CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in January after the Supreme Court ruling.

CMS' vaccine rule covers 10.4 million health care workers at 76,000 medical facilities. Giving patients assurance on the safety of their care is a critical responsibility of CMS and a key to combatting the pandemic.

Fired Spanish Fort retirement community workers are currently suing ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, Inc. and Presbyterian Retirement Corporation, Inc., the operators of Spanish Fort's Westminster Village, for allegedly violating religious freedoms in enforcing the company's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. ACTS attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Friday, according to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama records.

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