By Emma Gonzalez, CNN
The states of Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services, seeking to block the implementation of a mandate that requires federal contractors to provide vaccinations in order to be certified as an eligible entity.
The “Federal Vaccine Coverage Cap Rule” has been enacted as a result of the 21st Century Cures Act passed in the summer of 2016, according to the lawsuit. While “vaccines are permissible under the 2012 Polio Eradication Act,” states the lawsuit, “The 2016 Act codifies a federal mandate requiring health care service providers to recommend and provide vaccinations on a requirement in addition to the CDC’s Immunization requirements under the Public Health Service Act and the CDC’s Importation Requirements, which patients and their parents are already expected to follow.”
These requirements aren’t new: The CDC has issued two updated CDC-mandated vaccination laws, Health Care Service Act-mandated national recommendations for vaccines and Importation Requirements, which laws dictate that imported vaccine be “authorized by authorization signed by the governor under the Health Care Services Act,” said a statement from HHS.
Under the federal rule, HHS determined that any federal contract that “requires the installation, operation, financing, operation, or maintenance” must be done by an entity that provides services under that contract. Since those providers must be certified by HHS in order to be eligible, states have taken exception to the rule and filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claimed that the federal government does not have the right to mandate immunizations as a condition of certification. While the states’ attorney general have agreed to dismiss the suit if the rule does not go into effect, states disagree that this is the case.
In a statement provided to CNN, Dr. Paul Biddinger, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the New York State Department of Health, expressed his disappointment and stated, “It is our belief that these new federal requirements were designed to be convenient for some states that are unwilling to provide the broad spectrum of immunizations required to meet the minimum CDC health standards. If the federal requirements are not changed, NYDOH remains committed to helping protect individuals against preventable, communicable diseases.”
The new rule has been subject to the inevitable criticisms that have typically plagued policy changes, with parents questioning the need for new mandates to immunize their children. As of Monday afternoon, the rule has been installed, but the states have not given it a working title.
A spokeswoman for HHS declined to comment on the lawsuit.