UTICA, NY – A COVID-19 vaccination mandate covering all New York State healthcare workers has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge after a group of 17 medical professionals – including doctors and nurses – filed a lawsuit against the state Monday on the grounds that the mandate offered no ability to opt-out of getting the jab due to religious beliefs.
Judge David Hurd in Utica issued the order on Tuesday, while giving New York State until September 22 to respond to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit; however, a oral hearing will take place on September 28 if the state seeks to oppose the court’s preliminary court order blocking the vaccination mandate.
New York State originally imposed the vaccination order for healthcare workers on August 28, and it covers not only public employees, but also privately employed medical workers as well. Individuals working in the healthcare field – including those employed at hospitals and nursing homes – are currently mandated to receive at least their first vaccine dose by September 27, and cannot opt-out in favor of regular COVID-19 testing or for religious reasons.
“We’re not constitutionally required to provide a religious exemption,” said Vanessa Murphy, a DOH attorney. “You see that with the Measles and the Mumps requirement for health care workers.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s press secretary, Hazel Crampton-Hays, stated that the state takes the healthcare vaccination mandate very seriously.
“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 health care workers is critical to this battle,” Crampton-Hays said.
The names of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state adopted pseudonyms to protect their identities – including “Dr. A” and “Nurse A” – due to what they said was “the risk of ostracization, threats of harm, immediate firing and other retaliatory consequences if their names become known.”
The plaintiffs allege that the New York State vaccination mandate violates the U.S. Constitution, the New York State Human Rights Law, and New York City Human Rights Law by not allowing exemptions for religious beliefs. The plaintiffs also noted that they are not “anti-vaxxers” and are not opposed to vaccines in general.