Two weeks ago, New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill to amend the public health law, requiring the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. The bill specifies that, upon its approval by the FDA and the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force, the vaccine will be required to be distributed in accordance with the department’s COVID-19 vaccination administration program. The state’s task force is made up of five doctors from around the state. The bill then goes on to specify that once the task force has approved the safety, effectiveness, promotion, and distribution plans, they can determine whether New York’s residents are not developing sufficient immunity for COVID-19, in which case the department will mandate vaccination for everyone. Only those who have received a medical exemption from a licensed medical professional shall not be required to take the vaccine. The bill ends by specifying that the act shall take effect immediately.
The matter of fact is that in this moment there is no vaccine that meets the safety standards defined in this bill. This bill is hypothetical and does not account for the complications associated with an untested vaccine. This bill does not specify any standards of safety, and many medications, foods, and chemicals are approved by the FDA for human consumption and yet have potentially dangerous side effects. Laws like this will further increase the pressure on the FDA to preemptively approve vaccines that have not undergone further testing.
When asked, Rosenthal told WGRZ-TV, “It’s a protective health measure. It’s to ensure that our residents are safe and protected against further spread.” Rosenthal explained that, “the concept of herd immunity is very important, and not everyone will have to get the vaccination if a certain threshold of the population has gotten it.” She indicated that the threshold would have to be 75 percent to 80 percent and told 2 On Your Side she believes there will be enough people willing to take the vaccine in order to reach that threshold.
Rosenthal’s proposed bill, however, does not specify a threshold of 75-80 percent of residents willing to take the vaccine, and its ambiguous language of “sufficient immunity” indicates but does not explicitly state whether residents must gain immunity by antibodies or the immunization vaccine. This clause could even be interpreted to mean that all residents must take the vaccine or otherwise be forced by the government to take it. There is no specification of repercussions or penalties for those who refuse to take the mandated vaccine, nor is there a prescribed process for how the mandatory vaccine will be administered, and whether this can be done against the will or knowledge of the person being vaccinated.
Additionally, the legislation does not state whether the state, or the people, would be forced to cover the costs of mandatory vaccination. If individuals are forced to pay for the mandatory vaccine, the question then becomes, what happens to those who cannot afford to vaccinate themselves? Furthermore, there is an exemption for those whom a licensed medical professional deemed unfit to be vaccinated, but some people do not have health insurance, and may not be able to afford an additional doctor’s appointment. Doctors would also then be forced make the decision of whether a patient should be medically exempt from a vaccine they may know little about.
This law is vague, and a tactical overreach of government power that could potentially have disastrous impacts on society. Mandating vaccines as a condition of participation in social life is normal, for example, requiring vaccination of children attending schools, or those in long-term care facilities. However, this law far exceeds the norm, as there is still a choice involved; while there may be repercussions to noncompliance, citizens are not being forced against their will to be vaccinated. Most states that require vaccines for school children, offer medical exemptions, and generally religious or psychological exemptions. This law only offers medical exemptions, without any specific criteria defined.
The vaccines that are mandated for children to attend school have been around for a substantial time; all side-effects are known, and the vaccines are proven to be effective. There can be no way to know the long-term affects of this vaccine until it has been pushed out to the general population. It is irresponsible to force people to be guinea pigs for a vaccine whose long-term effects are unknown. While the chances are slim that side effects could be disastrous, that chance still exists. Take the recent allergic reactions some in Great Britain are experiencing during their vaccination program.
This law also opens New York State, and the FDA, up to potential lawsuits. This is an unprecedented law that, if passed, would likely go to the Supreme Court. Besides the fact that this law would likely be ruled unconstitutional, the chance there are potential side effects to the vaccine could open the state to lawsuits if the state pursued mandatory vaccination. Additionally, the privacy concerns regarding exposure of medical records and HIPAA regulations are vast. Would this legislation expose individuals’ medical records to the state? This legislation does not address privacy protections for individuals in any way.
These are just some of the many questions and concerns to consider when mandating vaccination of the entire population. It does not appear that this measure would pass, as Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she would not be inclined to support the bill and Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that you cannot make someone take a vaccine. New York State Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-I-C East Aurora) even states “this is a very dangerous bill,” and that his phone was “blowing up” with calls from constituents strongly opposed to making the vaccine mandatory. Many would agree that forcing people to put anything in their bodies is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.