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New York lawmakers could make COVID vaccine mandatory

If not enough New Yorkers voluntarily get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available, lawmakers are proposing mandating vaccination.

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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If not enough New Yorkers voluntarily get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available, lawmakers are proposing mandating vaccination.

According to Fox5NY, Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who represents parts of Manhattan's West Side, earlier this month introduced a bill that would require the state to "safely and effectively" distribute an FDA-approved vaccine "in accordance with the department [of health]'s COVID-19 vaccination administration program," according to the language of the legislation.

Assembly Bill A11179’s support memo states that "While steps have been taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, epidemiologists and public health experts have concluded that a vaccine will be necessary to develop herd immunity and ultimately stop the spread of the disease."

The State must make efforts to promote vaccination and ensure that a high enough percentage of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19 to develop sufficient immunity."

According to the legislation, once the vaccination program has been rolled out, the Department of Health would have the authority to "mandate vaccination" to anyone who can "safely receive the vaccine" if public health officials see that New Yorkers aren't developing "sufficient immunity from COVID-19" which is not defined by the bill.

According to the CDC, currently, experts don't know what percentage of the population would need to be vaccinated in order to achieve so-called herd immunity to COVID-19. "Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease, as a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people don’t have any protection themselves."

Rosenthal told FOX5NY that if less than 70 percent of the population voluntarily gets vaccinated then the mandate should take effect. "Then the state Department of Health would have the ability to say that more people have to get it," Rosenthal said in an interview. "And they would set the rules and they would set the structure."

New York State Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay said in a statement to The Post Millennial "I plan on getting a COVID vaccination when they become widely available and will encourage others to do the same. But before we even have the vaccine ready for distribution here, New York Democrats are paving the way for state-mandated vaccines. They're already thinking ahead to how and when they might implement a direct threat to our personal liberties and interfere personal health decisions. Not only is it premature, it is extremely alarming."

According to a Gallup survey released in October, half of Americans said they wouldn’t get a free US government approved vaccine if it were ready today. That's a decrease from July when two thirds said they would agree to vaccination.

In November, the New York State Bar Association recommended the state consider making it mandatory for all residents to get the shot, except those exempted by doctors. The resolution, which was passed by a majority of the bar association’s 277-member House of Delegates, includes conditions limiting its scope. They include that the state government should only consider making vaccinations mandatory if voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations fall short of producing needed levels of population immunity. Additionally, they include that an assessment of the health threat to various communities be made so that perhaps the mandate can be targeted, and that a mandate only be considered after there is expert consensus about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

States have the authority to regulate public health and in the past have mandated vaccines such as in the case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905, which was decided by the Supreme Court after a smallpox outbreak.

In 2019, New York City required people living in four ZIP codes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to get the measles vaccine, prove they've already had it or face a $1,000 fine.

Meanwhile, The World Health Organization does not foresee countries making it mandatory for citizens to take the new COVID-19 vaccines which have been developed. “I don’t think we envisage any countries creating a mandate for vaccinations, ” Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunization vaccines and biologicals, said during a press conference last week.

As of publishing, Assembly Bill A11179 is sitting in committee.

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