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Another effort to block Oregon vaccine mandate denied

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A second federal judge in Oregon has rejected an emergency motion to halt the state’s vaccine mandate or make an exception for state workers who have contracted COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the U.S. Constitution offers no fundamental right to refuse a vaccination and that the mandated shots are in the state’s interest to stem the spread of disease and protect Oregon’s citizens, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Aiken additionally saw no need to exempt unvaccinated workers from the vaccine mandate if they already had the virus.

Infection-based immunity is “not as durable or reliable as the protection” provided by vaccines, Dr. Melissa Sutton wrote to the court. Sutton is the medical director of respiratory viral pathogens for the Oregon Health Authority.

The durability of infection-based immunity also varies widely between people, in contrast with a vaccine’s protection, Sutton said.

Aiken’s 26-page opinion marks the sixth ruling in state or federal court in Oregon to deny a last-minute effort to halt the state’s vaccine requirement.

State workers had two months to prepare for Gov. Kate Brown’s deadline to be fully vaccinated, which was Monday for about 5,000 employees. Her requirement originally extended to about 43,000 executive branch employees, but the deadline for most has been extended to Nov. 30 after negotiations with public employee unions.

In Aiken’s case, seven Oregon workers who all had COVID-19 and recovered sought a temporary restraining order.

As her colleague U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ruled in another case Monday, Aiken also found the plaintiffs had failed to show they’ll suffer irreparable harm from the mandates.

“Whatever hardships Plaintiffs face in choosing between accepting vaccination or leaving their employment are substantially outweighed by the interests and needs of the State of Oregon and her people,” Aiken wrote.