U.S. Labor Dept withdrawing COVID vaccine rule for large employers

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Jan 25 (Reuters) - The Department of Labor said on Tuesday it will withdraw its COVID-19 vaccine-and-testing requirement for large U.S. employers after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the rule, ending a controversial bid to increase vaccination rates.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in the federal register that while it was withdrawing the emergency temporary standard, the rule would remain as a proposal for a permanent requirement.

"OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace," the notice said.

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COVID-19 has killed more than 850,000 in the United States and the outbreak continues to weigh on the country's economy.

President Joe Biden unveiled in September several regulations aimed at increasing the U.S. adult vaccination rate, which currently stands at about 74%, according to government data, among the lowest for developed nations.

The rules sparked legal challenges by conservative organizations, Republicans and some business groups.

The OSHA mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees was blocked by the Supreme Court earlier this month, although at the same time the court allowed a separate federal vaccine requirement for workers in healthcare facilities. read more

A third major vaccine rule from the Biden administration required federal government contractors to get their employees vaccinated. That was blocked by a federal judge in December and last week a U.S. judge blocked a vaccine requirement for federal employees. read more

While courts have generally found the administration lacked the authority to require vaccination, mandates imposed by businesses, states and local governments have been upheld.

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Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot

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