The New York State Bar Association on Saturday passed a resolution urging the state to consider making it mandatory for all New Yorkers to undergo COVID-19 vaccination when a vaccine becomes available, even if people object to it for “religious, philosophical or personal reasons.”
The resolution, which was passed by a majority of the bar association’s 277-member House of Delegates, includes conditions limiting its scope. Those 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; 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.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Mary Beth Morrissey, chair of the bar association’s Health Law Section’s Task Force on COVID-19, which in May released a controversial report that had first proposed the idea of a vaccine mandate, said, “The authority of the state to respond to a public health crisis is well-established in constitutional law,”
“In balancing the protection of the public’s health and civil liberties, the Public Health Law recognizes that a person’s health can and does affect others,” said Morrisey, a lawyer who also holds a doctorate degree in gerontological social work research.
The Health Law Section’s May report generated an uproar online, over the spring and summer, among anti-vaccine groups and lawyers who represent people injured by vaccines. But the relevant part of the 83-page report proposing a vaccine mandate was broader in scope, and more direct, than the resolution passed by the bar association Saturday. And most of the conditions contained in the resolution had not been contained in the report.
The report had recommended that it should be mandatory for all Americans to undergo COVID-19 vaccination, despite people’s objections, with the one exception being doctor-ordered medical reasons. There had been no language about a mandate being limited to New York state residents, and no language saying a public recommendation made to the state government should only be for it to “consider” a mandate.