Another Biden Administration COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Struck Down by Court

Another Biden Administration COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Struck Down by Court
Health Secretary Xavier Becerra testifies during a congressional hearing in Washington on June 10, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

President Joe Biden’s administration did not have the authority to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on workers and volunteers in a federal childcare program, a U.S. judge has ruled.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) forced Head Start workers, and some volunteers, to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting in early 2022. Head Start provides childcare to children from low-income families.

HHS cited the Head Start Act, which says the health secretary can add “administrative and financial management standards,” “standards relating to the condition and location of facilities (including indoor air quality assessment standards, where appropriate),” and “such other standards as the secretary finds to be appropriate.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the mandate was outside of the power granted by the act. The law “does not mention vaccinations,” he and other plaintiffs said in a brief.

U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix agreed.

“The wisdom of Head Start’s rule is not before the Court—only its legality. If the people, through Congress, wish to impose a vaccine mandate on Head Start programs, they may do so by passing a law. But an agency can do only what Congress authorizes it to do,” Hendrix, a Trump appointee, said in his ruling.

“Regardless of how well intentioned, HHS’s attempt here to shoehorn the vaccine mandate into statutory language authorizing modification of Head Start’s administrative, financial, and facility-management standards goes too far. Equally fatal to the rule is the agency’s decision to implement it without the necessary public notice and comment, consultation with stakeholders, and reasonable explanation,” he added.

The ruling strikes down the mandate, which Biden’s administration had refused to rescind. The mandate had already been struck down in 24 states, per a 2022 ruling by a different judge.

HHS and the U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment.

“I’m proud to announce that the Biden Administration’s attempt to use the Head Start program to mask toddlers and force the vaccine on staff and volunteers has now been permanently defeated,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican and one of the plaintiffs, said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.

“I have worked relentlessly to end Biden’s troubling policies of medical tyranny, especially his attempts to impose draconian interventions on our children, as well as his efforts to punish Americans who do not comply with his preferred medical treatments—many of which are arbitrary, ineffective, and unjustified by the scientific evidence,” Paxton added.

In court filings, defendants had urged the judge not to block the mandate.

They pointed in part to a previous Supreme Court ruling that upheld the HHS mandate for health care workers that said the “unprecedented circumstances” of the COVID-19 pandemic “provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.” The health secretary, they said, “has long issued Head Start standards that addressed the most pressing health threats of the times,” and the mandate was issued to protect Head Start’s participants by “minimizing the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks in classrooms.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent transmission or infection, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though observational data have indicated they have a small effect on both that might turn negative over time.

The National Head Start Association, a nonprofit, welcomed the judge’s ruling.

“We have every confidence this decision will allow programs to, at long-last, reclaim their local autonomy, which is at the foundation of what they do best: serve children and families in a safe, healthy, and community-driven manner,” Yasmina Vinci, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

Head Start previously rescinded its mask mandate after months of lobbying from the nonprofit and others. It had mandated masks for children, workers, and volunteers.