Two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court lifted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium as an anti-COVID measure. The reasoning of the court opinion would support the CDC, however, if it imposed a vaccine mandate. The same applies to the applicable law regarding the authority of states over public health.

Members of the armed forces are subject to mandatory COVID vaccinations. Americans of a certain age were vaccinated against smallpox as toddlers – we have life scars on our arms as proof.

Every state requires vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, hib influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, and whooping cough so that children can attend childcare, preschool, kindergarten and elementary school. Since elementary school attendance is a government mandate to the entire population (home tuition is a limited exception), those vaccination requirements are in fact compulsory for school attendance.

Likewise, every immigrant to the United States must be vaccinated against 14 communicable diseases, including Measles, mumps, rubella and “seasonal influenza”. Immigrants crossing the US border to seek asylum have been released without vaccinations pending their hearing in the general US population, putting US citizens and legal residents at risk of the spread of many diseases, including COVID.

It is unusual for some politicians who have criticized the Biden government for this immigration policy to also oppose a COVID vaccine mandate. Regardless of whether they are asylum seekers or legal residents, unvaccinated people can spread infectious diseases. This is a legitimate risk that can be controlled by mandatory vaccination.

States have the power to enforce vaccination mandates as part of their police powers, a category of authority reserved to states under the 10th Amendment.

In 1905, the US Supreme Court upheld the Massachusetts smallpox vaccination requirement for all residents of cities whose health services required it. This judgment is still valid. Unlike the states, the federal government does not have general “police powers” ​​to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of its citizens.

Rather, the federal government must exercise its powers under a specific grant in the US Constitution Find. Since the New Deal, federal courts have established this power in the constitutional clause that allows the federal government to regulate interstate trade. In the case of COVID, there is a particularly strong argument that interstate travel can undermine a single state’s decision to require vaccines, requiring a federal solution.

In fact, that was the reason for the 1944 Act to on which the CDC relied for their eviction moratorium: “The Surgeon General [now the CDC]. . . is empowered to make and enforce the regulations necessary in its discretion to prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of communicable diseases from abroad into the States. . . or from a state. . . to any other state. “

The law allows” inspection “,” remediation “and” other measures that may be necessary in its discretion. “This should cover a vaccination mandate The CDC had argued that displaced renters would likely travel to other states to spread COVID. In rejecting that claim, the court found that with the increase in vaccinations, displaced people are now less likely to spread COVID, even if they do international travel. However, this conclusion proves the legal point that a federal immunization mandate would be constitutional.

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The court found that trade between states was affected by vaccinations. Congress uses an analogous authority to oversee food safety and regulate interstate trade by preventing unhealthy foods from crossing state lines.

Therefore, either the states under their police power or the CDC under applicable federal law could incur COVID -Impose vaccine mandate. Exceptions could be made for people with detected antibodies after recovering from COVID or for religious objections without denying the effectiveness of such a mandate altogether.

America has an adequate supply of vaccines. What seems to be missing is the political will, not the constitutional authority, to direct their use.

Tom Campbell is a law professor and economics professor at Chapman University. He holds a course on the separation of powers according to the US Constitution and wrote a constitutional text, “Separation of Powers in Practice”. He was a member of Congress and served on the Judiciary Committee for five terms.

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