On Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Gerald Neri blocked the state’s COVID vaccine mandate for health workers. The ruling held that Governor Kathy Hochul (D) and the state’s health department overstepped their authority by bypassing the legislature and mandating vaccines that are outside of what has been approved in sections in state public health law.
Neri ruled that the Respondents were specifically prohibited from implementing a mandatory immunization program for adults and children outside of what has been authorized by the legislature, writing,
The Mandate is beyond the scope of Respondents’ authority and is therefore null, void, and of no effect, and the Respondents, their agents, officers, and employees are prohibited from implementing or enforcing the Mandate.
In contemplating the standards for separation of powers, the judge found that the specific type of vaccine was not authorized in state law to be required, writing,
COVID-19 or coronaviruses are generally not covered by any of the aforementioned sections. Respondents are clearly prohibited from mandating any vaccination outside of those specifically authorized by the legislature.
Neri also found that the mandate was both arbitrary and capricious, citing evidence submitted,
The Mandate is entitled “Prevention of COVID-19 transmission by covered entities”. In true Orwellian fashion, the Respondents acknowledge then-current COVID-19 shots do not prevent transmission.
The court also noted that the definition of “fully vaccinated” as determined by the health department presented an absurdity, saying,
A term which is defined at the whim of an entity, subject to change without a moment’s notice contains all the hallmarks of ‘absurdity’ and is no definition at all.
The lawsuit was funded by Children’s Health Defense, “on behalf of Medical Professionals for Informed Consent and several individual healthcare workers,” according to a statement. The Plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Sujata Gibson, celebrated the ruling, writing,
This is a huge win for New York healthcare workers, who have been deprived of their livelihoods for more than a year. This is also a huge win for all New Yorkers, who are facing dangerous and unprecedented healthcare worker shortages throughout New York State.
The New York state Health Department said that it strongly disagrees with Neri’s decision, according to a statement issued Saturday, and is currently exploring its options, Syracuse.com reports.
The requirement that healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 protects vulnerable New Yorkers and the people who care for them, and the requirement is a critical public health tool.
It is unknown how this ruling will impact legal precedent, as the United States Supreme Court declined to block New York’s mandate for health workers in December 2021, in a case that cited the lack of religious exemption.
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