AMA Asks Appeals Court to Defend Biden Vaccination Mandate

Ken Terry

November 12, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The American Medical Association (AMA) on November 11 filed an amicus brief asking a federal appeals court to preserve a Biden administration rule that requires companies with 100 or more employees to have their workers vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing.

The AMA document presents the most sweeping argument to date in favor of widespread COVID-19 vaccination by the organization that claims to represent most US physicians.

The Republican attorneys general of Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, plus several companies, filed petitions on November 5 challenging the temporary standard for COVID-19 vaccination and testing that was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The next day, the US Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans granted the petitioners' request for a temporary stay of the mandate until the legal issues are adjudicated.

OSHA specifies that the companies subject to its rule must ensure that their employees be fully vaccinated by January 4. After that date, unvaccinated employees must submit weekly negative COVID-19 tests to enter their workplaces.

AMA Position on Vaccination

In its amicus brief, the AMA argues that COVID-19 threatens public health and that halting the enforcement of the OSHA rule would hurt the public interest.

Vaccinating workers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, the AMA states. Citing medical references, the association points out that fully vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and are contagious for shorter periods than are the unvaccinated.

Widespread vaccination, the AMA said, protects both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. This is especially important to workers who can't get vaccinated because of a medical condition.

Workplace transmission has been a major factor in the spread of COVID-19, the brief notes. Many adults who have tested positive for the virus have continued going to work. So it's essential to protect workers by requiring vaccination or testing.

Vaccines Safe, Effective

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, especially in preventing serious illness and death, the AMA said. From March to August 2021, according to one study, unvaccinated people accounted for 84% of patients hospitalized for COVID, the brief points out.

While the vaccines' effectiveness wanes over time, booster shots can restore the original level of effectiveness, the AMA notes.

The AMA also recounts how past vaccine mandates helped curb or wipe out diseases like measles and smallpox.

The current vaccination mandate has already cut the number of unvaccinated Americans by a third even before being implemented, a recent report by the Biden Administration claims. According to the report, 3500 organizations had already instituted their own mandates even before OSHA issued its final rule.

Natural immunity is not a substitute for vaccination, the AMA brief states. The vaccines better protect people against reinfection than does immunity created by previous infection, it notes.

Other measures — such as masking and social distancing and regular COVID testing — are also not as effective against the virus as is vaccination, the AMA states.

"Immediate, widespread vaccination against COVID-19 is the surest way to protect the U.S. workforce and the public and to end this costly pandemic," the brief concludes.

For more news, follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.