Surgeon general defends embattled vaccine mandate

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s workplace rules on vaccine mandates after a federal court blocked a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy.

Citing historical precedents dating back to George Washington during the American Revolution, Murthy said President Joe Biden had faith in both the legality of the mandate and the effectiveness of such requirements.

“The president and the administration wouldn't have put these requirements in place if they didn't think they were appropriate and necessary,” Murthy told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.” “And the administration is certainly prepared to defend them.”

He added: “Throughout our history, we have seen that we have used vaccine requirements to protect the population. It started back with George Washington, in fact, when he required troops be inoculated for smallpox.“ Murthy also referenced mandates, past and present, for vaccines within schools, hospitals and the military.

The OSHA mandate, which would compel businesses with at least 100 employees to require the Covid vaccine for those workers or test those employees on a weekly basis, has drawn legal challenges from more than half the states.

The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday temporarily blocked the mandate, saying: “The petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.“ The court gave the U.S. government until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to the plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction.

Noting that the United States still has “75,000 cases a day,” Murthy said that the mandate ultimately will have great benefits for the economy and for society as a whole.

“There are times where we recognize that our decisions have a broader effect on people around us. Covid has reminded us of that. And that’s why having these types of requirements in workplaces will be not only helpful — it's a necessary step to accelerate our pathway out of the pandemic, ” he said.

The OSHA mandate is expected to affect more than 80 million private-sector workers across the country — other national and local mandates affect government employees — though many of them have already been vaccinated against Covid-19. Critics have claimed the mandate will be disruptive to the economy and that it violates the constitutional rights of individuals.

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