SCOTUS Rules No on Federal Vaccine-or-Testing Mandate
On January 13, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Biden Administration could not enforce a vaccine-or-testing mandate on large employers.
However, there is an exception for healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicaid and Medicare programs. The decision came as coronavirus cases continued to rise across the country due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Several Hopkins students and faculty showed displeasure at the court’s ruling. Abigail Kruger ’23 said, “I disagree with the court’s decision. I believe vaccine mandates should be in place for all large companies.” Chris Hwa ’24 said, “While it is important for business to have independence and autonomy, the vaccine is the only way we will be able to eradicate covid in the foreseeable future and we need to utilize it by any means necessary.” Spanish teacher Susan Bennitt agreed that a vaccine mandate would help mitigate the spread of Covid-19: “The proposed mandate is rooted in science, and I find it extremely disconcerting that it was shot down for the broader population given we could close in on the pandemic faster with a 100% vaccination rate.”
A few members of the Hopkins community, while unhappy with the decision, were not surprised by the outcome. Ryan Schatz ’23 said, “With six conservatives on the bench, it was always going to end like this.” History teacher Daniel Levy stated, “I wasn’t very surprised that the Court, as currently constituted, ruled this way. The conservative majority believes in limited federal government and narrow federal regulations in most cases.” History teacher Megan Maxwell said, “The court’s logic in banning the mandate saying that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) does not have the right to do this is dangerous. They’re being shortsighted and not taking into account the current public health emergency.”
However, some Hopkins students were content with the decision. Cyrus Sadeghi ’23 said, “I feel that the best course of action is not for the government to force vaccination at the potential cost of losing one’s job and livelihood. Instead, I believe that it would be best to educate vaccine-hesitant people about the benefits of vaccination. I also believe that the mask mandate should have remained in place, but both for the unvaccinated and the vaccinated.” Charlie Wang ’22 connected the debate around vaccine mandates to another hot-button issue: “I think this is the same argument as abortion. It’s your body, your choice, so it’s similar to abortion that, if you don’t want a baby in your body, you can also not want a vaccine in your body. However, I still would encourage all unvaccinated people to get the shot.”
The decision does not prohibit businesses from having a vaccine mandate for their employees; it only prohibits a federal mandate. Levy said, “It is important to recognize that States can still require vaccination, as can businesses, on their own accord. I was probably more disappointed with Starbucks for immediately backing off both a mask and vaccine requirement.” As of February 11, Hopkins requires vaccines for all eligible students, faculty, and staff, aside from those with a medical or religious exemption. Schatz said, “I feel comfortable coming to campus knowing that everyone is vaccinated and is going to get boosted.” Booster shots are only required for faculty and staff, while eligible students are highly encouraged to get boosted.
Regardless of their opinion on the specifics of the case, members of the Hopkins community are united in their belief that everyone should get vaccinated. As Sofia Llovera ’23 said, “I don’t really follow the news, so I don’t have a strong opinion or anything, but getting vaccinated is obviously an easy way to get out of potentially having a really bad case of coronavirus.”