Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration is once again facing a legal challenge to one of its COVID-19 public health orders after two New Mexico women filed a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, argues vaccine mandates for certain workers, in particular health care workers, violates constitutional rights and seeks a judgment preventing enforcement of the order.
The lawsuit also argues against a vaccine mandate that potentially bars people from participating in the New Mexico State Fair is punitive.
It seeks to halt the mandate through a temporary restraining order and injunction.
On Aug. 18, Lujan Grisham issued an order requiring health care workers, as well as teachers and other staff, to be fully vaccinated unless they qualify for an exemption. The order also requires anyone attending the New Mexico State Fair to be fully vaccinated.
The lawsuit names Lujan Grisham and acting Health Secretary David Scrase as defendants.
Jennifer Blackford of Bernalillo County, a registered nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, is one of the two women who brought the case forward.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which operates several hospitals in the state, recently announced it would require its entire workforce to be vaccinated, with a first dose by Friday. According to the public health order, those who refuse to get the vaccine and do not qualify for an exemption based on religious or medical reasons run the risk of losing their jobs.
Blackford, in a signed affidavit, said she is refusing the vaccine in part because of its U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization status.
The lack of full FDA approval has been cited as a reason for vaccine-hesitant people to forgo inoculation. According to the FDA website, Emergency Use Authorization means a vaccine still requires a “rigorous development process” and multiple clinical trials.
However, the Pfizer vaccine received full FDA approval Monday for those 16 and over. It remains in emergency status for children under 16.
As of Monday, 76 percent of New Mexicans over 18 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The other plaintiff in the suit is Union County Extension Agent Talisha Valdez, a mother of two daughters who, according to the complaint, entered animals at the state fair but could be barred from attending due to an order requiring attendees to be vaccinated.
Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email that while the administration does not comment on pending litigation, “the state’s ability to protect the health and safety of the public by implementing public health policies has been upheld again and again in the courts.”
Valdez and Blackford are represented by A. Blair Dunn, an Albuquerque-based attorney who has filed multiple other lawsuits challenging the governor’s public health orders during the pandemic.
Dunn could not be reached for comment on the most recent complaint, which calls Lujan Grisham a “tyrannical governor willing to punish children and destroy livelihoods.”
The suit also calls the vaccine mandate the biggest assault on “American liberty” since the use of internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II.