COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Undercut by Updated CDC Guidance: Lawsuit

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
August 20, 2022 Updated: August 22, 2022

An amended lawsuit filed Aug. 19 urges a court to rule against Rhode Island’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, pointing in part to updated COVID-19 guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Stephen Skoly is challenging Rhode Island’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, alleging it unconstitutionally discriminates against people with protection from prior infection.

The mandate imposed by state officials allowed medical exemptions but not ones on the basis of prior infection, or natural immunity. That violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, according to the 34-page complaint, filed in federal court in Rhode Island.

The mandate “irrationally discriminates between different types of unvaccinated health care workers—the preferred unvaccinated (those with accepted medical exemptions) are allowed to wear N95 masks and work, and the unpreferred (those with a not accepted medical condition, or natural immunity, or a religious belief) are compelled to suffer loss of livelihood however willing to be N95 masked,” it states.

Skoly has suffered from Bell’s Palsy, a condition that has been linked to COVID-19 vaccines. He has also recovered from COVID-19, which gives him a high level of protection. After consulting with his doctor, Skoly decided not to get vaccinated.

Lawyers for Skoly listed two studies showing that natural immunity is superior to vaccination. They also noted how the CDC on Aug. 11 changed its guidance, which is utilized by officials across the country in imposing regulations.

The guidance says that the risk for severe COVID-19 “is considerably reduced by immunity derived from vaccination, previous infection, or both” and that people “who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.” It also rescinds stricter quarantine for unvaccinated people.

“Even the CDC has finally admitted that it makes no sense to distinguish between vaccine immunity and natural immunity,” the suit says.

It asks the court for damages and to permanently block state officials from enforcing the mandate against him, as well as unemployment benefits and an injunction against a future denial of unemployment benefits.

No Adjustment

Mark Chenoweth, president and general counsel at the New Civil Liberties Alliance, told The Epoch Times after the CDC update that the legal group would be noting the update in future filings, including in Skoly’s case.

If entities do not respond to the update, he said, then more lawsuits will be filed.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have finally come around to admit the scientific fact that recovery from COVID-19 embues [sic] people with naturally acquired immunity to the virus. Rhode Island’s leaders are apparently slower learners. By continuing to treat Dr. Skoly like he poses a threat to vulnerable patients, even though he has antibodies to the COVID-19 virus, the state’s irrational order cannot withstand a court’s scrutiny,” Chenoweth said in a statement.

Outside New Jersey, no states appear to have updated policies based on the CDC update.

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Health, one of the defendants in Skoly’s suit, told The Epoch Times via email, “RIDOH, and all of our partners, are currently reviewing the guidance and will determine what updates need to be made to existing guidance and recommendations, both sector-specific and for the general public.”

Rhode Island imposed the mandate originally on Oct. 1, 2021. Officials extended the temporary mandate in February, and later replaced it with one that allowed masking instead of vaccination, a provision carried over to the permanent mandate that took effect in mid-June.

In a motion to dismiss that month, defendants noted the change and said it supported dismissing the complaint. They also said that the mandates have been based on “specific CDC guidance and the scientific knowledge available at that time.”

The permanent mandate, however, adds a new section that request all Medicare and Medicaid certified providers and workers to get vaccinated, the amended complaint says. That rule means the masking alternative isn’t available for facilities that accept federal funds, and reimposes the “arbitrary discrimination” that violates the Constitution.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.