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Federal vaccine mandate for health care workers blocked in N.H, but facilities can still implement their own rules

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Allison Quantz for NHPR
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Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health announced a vaccine mandate in August 2021.

New Hampshire and the nine other mostly Republican-led states who sued President Biden over the COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers will no longer have to comply, at least for now, as the litigation moves forward, ruled a federal district court in Missouri on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp ruled in favor of the plaintiff states. In his order, he wrote that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not have the authority to issue the vaccine mandate without congressional approval and that the vaccination mandate was “arbitrary and capricious.”

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella says the mandate cannot be enforced by CMS in New Hampshire “until further notice.”

For some, the ruling comes at an awkward time. Health care facilities across the state have been implementing the federal vaccine mandate, with the deadline for a first shot coming up Dec. 6.

At long term care facilities, staff vaccination rates have risen over 10 percent since plans for the mandate were announced.

Chris Kelliher, administrator at The Villager, a small retirement home in Goffstown, says for his facility, the ruling is irrelevant. “All of our staff are already vaccinated,” Kelliher said.

Facilities can still choose to implement their own vaccine mandates. Hospitals across the state announced widespread vaccine mandates in the summer and early fall.

Others may choose to stick with the federal timeline. Daniel Estee, who runs a nursing home in Derry, is planning to do that. He believes his staff need to be vaccinated and says he has no intention of waiting until the battle plays out in the courts.