18 states sue federal government over vaccine exemptions

U.S. states want the federal government to stop forcing healthcare workers to give vaccines to patients.

This week, 18 states joined 15 others in filing a joint complaint with the federal government, arguing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is not following federal rules. The states say the federal government has allowed state-licensed healthcare workers to refuse to give vaccines against certain diseases in violation of the federal Vaccine Act.

It’s the second time this year that a federal vaccine rule has sparked legal action from a dozen states. In January, 21 states sued the federal government for requiring insurance companies to cover vaccines as a form of preventive medicine.

On Monday, 17 states filed a similar lawsuit regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ exemption policy for vaccines. That same day, 16 other states joined that suit.

On Tuesday, the state of Maine also joined the group suing the federal government. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said the federal government has encouraged state-licensed medical professionals to refuse to give vaccine doses to patients.

“It is in the best interest of the patients and the citizens of Maine to protect individuals who are at risk for illnesses which have caused serious injuries or death, and whose vaccination status is unknown,” Mills said in a statement.

Many of the states have tried and failed to change the federal exemption policy. The states have argued the federal government broke federal rules when it allowed this “noncompliance” last year.

The federal government has said it wouldn’t intervene in states’ attempts to enforce their own laws. Under this year’s lawsuit, the federal government argues it would be “inappropriate to provide a federal response to the states’ purported overstepping of constitutional bounds.”

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