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What to Know
- A federal judge temporarily blocked the state of New York from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated after a group of them sued
- 17 health professionals, including doctors and nurses, claimed their Constitutional rights were violated because the state’s mandate disallowed religious exemptions
- The state issued the order on Aug. 28, requiring at least a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27., the same day NYC education employees are required to do the same
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has scheduled a COVID briefing for late Wednesday morning, a day after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state’s medical worker vaccine mandate. More than a dozen professionals had sued, saying their Constitutional rights were violated because religious exemptions aren’t permitted.
The state issued the order Aug. 28, requiring at least a first shot for healthcare workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27, the same day New York City education employees are required to do the same by a mayoral mandate.
Of his mandate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said there would be “no delay in the city’s implementation of this vaccine requirement.”
In issuing the injunction, Judge David Hurd in Utica gave New York state until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit, which was filed by 17 medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, earlier this week. If the state opposes the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary court order blocking the mandate, a Sept. 28 oral hearing will occur.
Hazel Crampton-Hays, press secretary to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement Tuesday that the state was considering all legal options.
About 100 million workers fall under President Biden’s new vaccine mandate because they work for companies that employ more than 100 people. But that mandate goes a lot farther than the federal government has gone before. NBC10’s Mitch Blacher talked to a legal expert about the requirement.
“Governor Hochul is doing everything in her power to protect New Yorkers and combat the delta variant by increasing vaccine rates across the State. Requiring vaccination of healthcare workers is critical to this battle,” Crampton-Hays said.
Messages seeking comment also were sent to lawyers for the Thomas More Society who filed the lawsuit.
Dr. Joseph R. Sellers, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said in a statement that the nonprofit organization for physicians, residents and medical students was “greatly dismayed by today’s decision.”
“We believe this step will result in a flurry of attempts to circumvent the well-reasoned vaccination requirement that was an important step towards reversing the recent surge attributable to the more easily spread delta variant,” Sellers said. “No major religious denomination opposes vaccinations, and the Supreme Court has for over 100 years upheld vaccination requirements as a means to protect the public health.”
In their lawsuit, the healthcare plaintiffs disguised their identities with pseudonyms such as “Dr. A.,” “Nurse A.,” and “Physician Liaison X.” They said they wanted to proceed anonymously because they “run the risk of ostracization, threats of harm, immediate firing and other retaliatory consequences if their names become known.”
They cited violations of the U.S. Constitution, along with the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law, because the state Department of Health regulation requiring workers to get the vaccine provided no exemption for “sincere religious beliefs that compel the refusal of such vaccination.”
Court papers said all available COVID vaccines employ aborted fetus cell lines in their testing, development or production. But religious leaders have disagreed over the issue and the Vatican issued a statement last year saying the vaccines were “morally acceptable.”
The plaintiffs, all Christians, include practicing doctors, nurses, a nuclear medicine technologist, a cognitive rehabilitation therapist and a physician’s liaison who all oppose as a matter of religious conviction any medical cooperation in abortion, the lawsuit said.
It added that they are not “anti-vaxxers” who oppose all vaccines.
We thought we could control the pandemic with about 70% of the country vaccinated. But with the Delta variant leading to case surges even in highly vaccinated countries, that changes the math. We may need 90% to take the COVID-19 vaccine to really wrangle with this variant, says Alabama epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Judd.