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Are Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates legal?

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(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington.

President Biden’s sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandates affecting federal employees and private sector workplaces with 100 or more people have been praised as an example of “leadership” and criticized as “un-American.” 

Legal challenges are forthcoming, both around the scope of the president’s authority and claims of religious liberty, according to Wendy Parmet, a leading public health law expert and director of Northeastern’s Center for Health Policy and Law. Biden clearly has the legal standing to require federal workers and contractors that do business with the government to get immunized. “The president is the boss of the federal workforce and he sets the rules,” Parmet says.

Whether that authority extends to the healthcare arena is somewhat less certain. Biden ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to require hospitals, nursing homes, and other entities that receive federal money to require vaccination. 

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