Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the Biden administration's "necessary" vaccine mandate for employers on Sunday after an appeals court temporarily put it on hold.
Murthy spoke with ABC News after a federal appeals court temporarily halted President Biden's mandate that companies with 100 or more employees beginning on Jan. 4 require workers get vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
"The president and the administration wouldn't have put these requirements in place if they didn't think that they were appropriate and necessary, and the administration is certainly prepared to defend them," Murthy said on ABC's This Week.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Saturday cited "grave statutory and constitutional" issues while temporarily pausing the vaccine mandate, which is facing legal challenges from numerous states, Reuters reports. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda in response said the Labor Department is "confident in its legal authority" and is "fully prepared" to defend the requirement in court.
On ABC, Murthy argued COVID-19 vaccine requirements of this kind "make so much sense" because taking "every measure possible to make our workplaces safe" is both "good for people's health" and "good for the economy." To those who argue the mandate will harm the economy, Murthy responded that "what's really hurting the economy is actually COVID itself," pointing to disruptions caused by workers getting sick with COVID-19 or having to quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus.
When asked if the Biden administration could extend the vaccine mandate to smaller companies, assuming it survives the current legal challenges, Murthy said "nothing is off the table at this moment," though the administration's focus for now remains on "implementing the current rule."