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US judge blocks vaccine mandate for contractors

A US federal judge has ordered the Biden administration to temporarily stop enforcing a requirement that employees of government contractors, including defence companies, be vaccinated against Covid-19.

US District Court Judge Stan Baker of the Southern District of Georgia ruled on 7 December that the mandate seems to overstep the president's authority under federal procurement law. The mandate was included in an executive order that President Joe Biden signed in September.

The executive order “goes far beyond addressing administrative and management issues in order to promote efficiency and economy in procurement and contracting, and instead, in application, works as a regulation of public health, which is not clearly authorised under the Procurement Act”, the judge wrote in his 28-page decision.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by seven states, including Georgia. The judge heard testimony from three Georgia universities that received USD737 million in federal contracts in fiscal year 2021 and feared they would lose employees who refused to become fully vaccinated by the 18 January 2022 deadline.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the US Department of Justice will “vigorously defend” the mandate in future court proceedings on the case. “The reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work, and we are confident in our ability legally to make these happen across the country,” she told reporters.

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