A state Supreme Court judge in Syracuse struck down a statewide mandate to vaccinate medical staff against COVID-19, ruling that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state health department had exceeded their authority.
In a landmark ruling on Jan. 13, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neary declared the statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical personnel to be “null, void, and of no effect.”
Hochul and the New York State Department of Health have abused their authority by sidestepping the state legislature in imposing a permanent mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine for medical professionals, the judge wrote in the order (pdf).
Judge Neary also found that the state was “haphazard and capricious,” citing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent the spread of the virus, undermining the basis of the mandate.
“In true Orwellian fashion, respondents acknowledge that current COVID-19 shots do not prevent transmission,” Neary wrote, citing a public comment evaluation summary entered as evidence in the case.
In support of the view that the state was volatile, Neary also pointed to the fact that the order, titled Preventing Transmission of COVID-19 by Covered Entities (pdf), used a loose definition of “fully immunized,” meaning that “determined by the department.”
Justice Neary wrote: “A term defined at the whim of an entity, which is subject to change without any notice, has all the hallmarks of ‘absurdity’ and is no definition at all.”
The ruling follows a lawsuit filed by the Medical Professionals of Informed Consent, a group of medical professionals who have been adversely affected by the imposition of vaccination and have lost their jobs or faced the prospect of job loss.
“This is a huge victory for health care workers in New York, who have been deprived of their livelihoods for over a year,” Sujata Gibson, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a statement.
“This is also a huge win for all New Yorkers, who are facing a serious and unprecedented health care worker shortage across New York State,” Gibson added.
Siding with the group, Judge Neary said the state is prohibited from requiring vaccinations outside of what is detailed in the Public Health Act.
“The mandate is beyond the power of the defendants, and is therefore null, void, and of no effect,” he wrote.
A ‘decisive win’ against vaccine mandates
Marie Holland, president of Children’s Health Advocacy (CHD), which funded the lawsuit on behalf of informed consent medical professionals and many health care workers, applauded the decision.
“We are pleased with this decisive victory against the COVID vaccine mandate, as we have correctly found that any such authorization at this point, given current knowledge, is arbitrary,” Holland said in a statement.
“We hope that this decision will continue the trend of lifting dangerous and unwarranted vaccine authorizations across the country,” she added.
Neither Hochul’s office nor the New York State Department of Health immediately responded to a request for comment and information on whether they plan to appeal.
Vaccines helped reduce transmission of early variants of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Recent studies show that vaccines are less effective at reducing transmission of later variants, but they continue to reduce serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Meanwhile, some experts have called for RNA shots sent by Pfizer and Moderna to be withdrawn until new clinical trials showing they are safe and effective can be conducted.
Dr. Joseph Fryman, based in Louisiana, has become among those calling for a pause in administering vaccines pending new trials.
Fryman cited data that included a re-analysis of the original experiments conducted by he et al. They concluded that vaccinators had a higher risk of severe adverse events.
The fact that the Omicron variant and its sub-variants are also less virulent, resulting in fewer hospitalizations and deaths, and diminished vaccine efficacy also contributes to building opposition to vaccinating all or parts of the population until better data is available.
Zachary Steber contributed to this report.