Lawrence Gostin, law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C., tells us what to expect from today’s Supreme Court hearing on two Biden Administration COVID vaccine mandates; ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser says states and...
Lawrence Gostin, law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C., tells us what to expect from today’s Supreme Court hearing on two Biden Administration COVID vaccine mandates; ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser says states and territories are prepared for a rush of kids seeking protection from the Omicron variant as classes resume nationwide; a new ASTHO report highlights the role immunizations can play in reducing health disparities; and ASTHO has a new online tool to help members address the need for more forensic pathologists in their jurisdictions.
This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, January 7th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.
Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
The Supreme Court today hears arguments regarding two disputes over Biden administration COVID vaccine mandates. The high court will consider legal views on the vaccine-or-test rule for businesses with more than 100 employees and the vaccine requirement for workers at medical and healthcare facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding.
In today's morning conversation, Georgetown Law professor Lawrence Gostin tells us what to expect from the hearing.
I think we all expected at least one of the legal challenges to a vaccine mandate would make it to the Supreme Court. Is there any surprise about how quickly this debate has risen to their level?
Well, you know, this is—COVID-19 has been the most politicized epidemic or pandemic in human history, and that hasn't been very different in the court system, as well. Virtually every mandate that mayors or governors or the federal government have tried to implement have been challenged—from vaccine mandates to mask mandates, to lock downs, to eviction moratorium. And so, we've had these Biden mandates percolating in the courts for some time now, and courts have made wildly different decisions, many of them very political.
And so, I suppose I'm not surprised that the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in. You know, right now half the country has to abide by the Biden large business mandate and half don't—that's no way to run a nation. And so, the Supreme Court is going to have to weigh in
What can we expect from the court today? And when might we look for a decision?
Well, you know, we can expect a full hearing on both the CMS vaccine mandate case that requires vaccines for all health workers that are operating in institutions that accept Medicare or Medicaid dollars—which is virtually all of them—and also the OSHA mandate, which requires businesses of a hundred or more people to be either vaccinated or regularly tested. So, we'll have a good sense of how the Court is leaning—we usually do with oral arguments.
And when the Court will make the decision? We don't know. But since this is on an expedited basis, I would expect to see within weeks.
And the clues will come from the questions or the comments they make during the hearing today?
Yeah. I mean, for example, you know, not too long ago, the Supreme Court heard an abortion ban that Texas had put on; and as soon as the oral arguments were over, people were predicting that, you know, what the Court would do, and the Court did it.
So, very often the Court does kind of indicate. Individual members of the Court, you can kind of ascertain what they're thinking. That's not always the case, but it's often the case in, particularly, in politically-charged cases like these mandates are.
As you mentioned, every mandate has been challenged—there are others that are floating around in lower courts right now. Does any decision the Court makes on these two cases affect the rest of them?
Not directly, no. It doesn't directly affect them because they're all slightly different issues.
But I do think that the Supreme Court will say something about the importance of federal regulation in this pandemic; and it's very possible that the Court will just decide that it's so against federal regulation that it might give us an idea what the Court is thinking in relation to other case. But they don't directly affect these other cases.
The FDA and the CDC moved fast this week to approve COVID boosters for kids ages 12–15. ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser says states and territories are ready with vaccines for kids seeking protection from the Omicron variant as classes resume nationwide.
A lot of the rush that we see when policy changes—when eligible populations expand—happens in the first few weeks and then really tails off. So, it's basically those worried that want to get in line first. But I think, again, that's something we anticipated and we've started to anticipate. There should be no reason why there's any delay in getting a booster, whether it's for an adult or for this new eligible population, 12–15-year-olds.
Also today, a new ASTHO report highlights the role immunizations can play in reducing health disparities. It includes insights from conversations with several equity and immunization leaders. The report offers 20 key actions to address health inequities.
Download the report and two posters using the link in the show notes.
Finally this morning, ASTHO has a new online tool to help members address the need for more forensic pathologists in their jurisdictions. The tool helps define the problem and identify possible solutions.
Find it using the link in the show notes.
That'll do it for today's report.
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I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.