NEW YORK, NY – A federal judge issued a ruling on Tuesday regarding New York State’s healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate, siding with 17 individuals in the field who had sought an injunction to allow them to opt out of getting the jab on religious grounds.
However, U.S. District Judge David Hurd noted that the injunction was only granted as a temporary measure to enable the plaintiffs to continue to argue their case.
“There is no adequate explanation from defendants about why the ‘reasonable accommodation’ that must be extended to a medically exempt health care worker under 2.61 could not similarly be extended to a healthcare worker with a sincere religious objection,” Hurd wrote in his decision.
As a result of the injunction, Hurd stated that
“[the NYS Department of Health (DOH) is] barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination going forward, or with the operation of exemptions already granted.”
In addition, the DOH is not allowed to take retaliatory measures of any sort – including denying or decertifying licenses, certifications, residency, or any other professional status – against healthcare workers who have sought or obtained religious exemptions.
The 17 individuals who filed the lawsuit last month – mostly consisting of unnamed doctors, residents and nurses – objecting to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, which required all medical workers to take the jab by September 27 and did not allow any options to opt-out based on religious objections.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they object to being forced to use a vaccine that utilized “fetal cell lines” from “procured abortions” in its development, although health officials have confirmed that the final vaccine itself does not contain these cells.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement in response to Tuesday’s ruling, stating that she continues to completely support the healthcare worker vaccination mandate.
“My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that,” she said. “I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”