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Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks New York State’s Vaccine Mandate For Health Care Workers

Published Thursday, September 16, 2021
by Caroline Lewis/The Gothamist
Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks New York State’s Vaccine Mandate For Health Care Workers

(ALBANY, NEW YORK) - A Federal Judge granted a temporary restraining order earlier this week that prevents New York State from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Health Care Workers, just days before the requirement is due to take effect.

Judge David Hurd's order comes in response to a lawsuit filed Monday (September 13th) by a group of 17 Health Care Workers who sued Governor Kathy Hochul and members of her administration for not allowing any exemptions for those who oppose getting the vaccine on religious grounds.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, argues the lack of religious exemption violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and State Attorney General Letitia James are listed as co-defendants.

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the mandate as one of his final acts in office and the deadline for Hospital and Nursing Home Employees across the state to get vaccinated against the Coronavirus is coming up on September 27th.

Hochul’s Administration announced in late August that it would roll back any religious exemptions that had been granted previously in an effort to boost vaccination to combat the more contagious Delta Variant.

“We’re not constitutionally required to provide religious exemptions,” Vanessa Murphy, a State Health Department Attorney, said at the time.

In a statement, Governor Hochul’s Press Secretary, Hazel Crampton-Hays, said the judge’s order does not suspend the vaccine mandate - but just temporarily bars the State Health Department from enforcing it in cases where people have claims for religious exemptions.

She said the state is considering its legal options.

“Governor Hochul is doing everything in her power to protect New Yorkers and combat the Delta Variant by increasing vaccine rates across the State,” Crampton-Hays continued. “Requiring vaccination of Health Care Workers is critical to this battle.”

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs - who are Doctors, Nurses, a Therapist, a Medical Technologist and a Physician Liaison - are refusing to get vaccinated against the Coronavirus because the vaccines were developed or tested using aborted fetal cell lines.

These are cells replicated from aborted fetal tissue in a lab.

None of the authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue, nor has their production involved recently aborted fetuses.

The production of Johnson & Johnson vaccine relied on fetal cell lines that came from a fetus aborted in 1985.

Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines early in their testing process.

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