Biden's COVID Vaccine Mandates: Where Do They Stand?

Kelly Wairimu Davis, MS

December 10, 2021

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

Enforcement of President Joe Biden's sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandates has been quite the challenge.

On Nov. 4, the Biden administration ordered federal contractors, certain health care workers, and employees of businesses with 100 employees or more to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or get weekly COVID-19 testing, by Jan 4, 2022.

The mandates got strong pushback right away, which has intensified in recent weeks.

Large portions of COVID-19 vaccine requirements have been temporarily blocked, as lawsuits challenging the mandates continue to be filed nationwide.

And just Wednesday, Senate Republicans and two moderate Democrats voted to overturn the vaccine and testing requirements for large businesses.

But many view the Senate's actions as mostly symbolic, since the president said he will veto any "anti-vaccine" bill that comes to his desk, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Read on for a look at where the vaccine mandates stand now.

Large Businesses

Currently, COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements for companies with 100 employees or more, which affects around 84 million US workers, are paused.

The only exception is New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that employees of private companies will need to have gotten at least one shot by Dec. 27. The new mandate applies to around 184,000 businesses.

In early November, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to temporarily ban the vaccine mandate for large companies, as countless petitions surrounding the mandate were being reviewed.

The matter has now moved to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court will combine lawsuits filed in different states into one official case for review, which simplifies the widespread legal battles over employer vaccine mandates.

Whether the court decides to permanently ban vaccine mandates for large companies or not, its ruling will be enforced nationwide. And the case will likely reach the Supreme Court first, which would have the final say.

Federal Contractors

Similar to large businesses, vaccine mandates have been temporarily blocked for "all covered contracts in any state or territory of the United States of America," according to a recent order by a federal court in Georgia.

On Dec. 7, U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker sided with seven states ― Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia ― that filed a lawsuit challenging federal contractor vaccine mandates. Associated Builders and Contractors, a construction industry trade group, also joined the petition.

The judge decided to expand the ban to cover federal contractors nationwide, saying that limiting vaccine mandates to a handful of states would "only cause more confusion."

Vaccine requirements for federal contractors were already temporarily banned in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, following a Nov. 30 ruling from a federal judge in Kentucky.

Health Care Workers

Right now, most health care workers are temporarily exempt from COVID-19 vaccine requirements, as petitions against the mandates are being reviewed.

On Nov. 30, U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty of Louisiana issued a temporary block on vaccine mandates for employees of health care providers that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, which reflects most health care settings and more than 17 million workers.

Ten states had already paused vaccine mandates for health care workers after a Nov. 29 ruling by a federal judge in Missouri.

Federal Workers

The Biden administration ordered all federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22.

The White House confirmed that over 90% of the 3.5 million federal workers had gotten at least one shot by the deadline, Reuters reported.


In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin ordered all military members and Defense Department employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-September, or immediately after the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, whichever came first.

COVID-19 vaccine mandates for military members and Defense Department employees have remained unblocked.

But around 27,000 Navy, Space Force, Marine Corps, and Air Force service members are still unvaccinated and are at risk of losing their positions, NBC News reported. Around 19,000 Army members haven't received their first shot.

Active-duty Air Force and Space Force members had a vaccine deadline of Nov 2.

Air Force National Guard and Air Force Reserve members had to be vaccinated by Dec. 2.

The Navy and Marines Corps had a vaccine deadline of Nov. 28 for active-duty members and Dec. 28 for Reserve members.

Active-duty Army members have until Dec. 15 to get their shots.

On Dec. 2, Army officials announced that 93% of the active-duty service members were fully vaccinated, and 96% had at least started. Sixty percent of the Army Reserve members had been vaccinated, and 64% had already gotten one shot.

Members of the Army Reserve and the U.S. National Guard must be vaccinated by June 30, 2022.


News release, city of New York.

The Washington Post: "Senate votes to repeal key Biden administration vaccine and testing policy."

The Hill: "White House: Biden would veto GOP resolution to nix vaccine mandate."

The White House: "Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Details of Two Major Vaccination Policies."

The National Law Review: "Initial En Banc Petitions, Procedural Possibilities, and the OSHA Vaccine Mandate."

Court order, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Augusta Division.

Court order, U.S. District Court Eastern District of Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort.

The White House.

Reuters: "90% of U.S. federal employees have received at least one COVID-19 dose ― White House."

News release, U.S. Department of Defense.

NBC News: "Thousands of service members miss Covid vaccination deadlines."

CNN: "US military branches set deadline for members to be vaccinated against Covid-19."

Military Health System: "Deadlines Set for All Service Members' Vaccinations Against COVID."

U.S. Army: "Department of the Army announces updated COVID-19 vaccination rates."


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.