A federal appeals court on Thursday reversed a decision that had blocked the White House from requiring federal workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
In September, President Biden said that the vast majority of federal workers had to be vaccinated or they would face disciplinary measures. But a preliminary injunction, instated in January by a federal judge in Texas, stopped the Biden administration from enforcing that mandate.
About 95 percent of federal workers were already in compliance with the mandate by the time the injunction was issued, the White House said.
In a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the judge in Texas, Jeffrey Brown, did not have the jurisdiction to block the mandate. Judge Brown had ruled that the president did not have the authority to compel employees to “undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment.”
He had said that less invasive measures could protect public health, like masking, social distancing and remote work.
In 2019, President Donald J. Trump appointed Judge Brown to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
In its ruling on Thursday, the appeals court said that the lawsuit challenging the mandate, which was filed by the group Feds for Medical Freedom, should be dismissed.
Mr. Biden’s mandate, which also applies to health care workers and certain private sector employees, was prompted in part by the Delta surge of last year.
As of Thursday, two-thirds of eligible Americans were fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
In January, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers. But the court allowed a more modest mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated.
The administration’s third major vaccine requirement, which was aimed at employees of federal contractors, was blocked by a federal judge in December.