Child Vaccine Mandate Emerges As Key Campaign Difference

During the October 25, 2022 gubernatorial debate, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and her Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, discussed the topic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for schoolchildren.

Gov. Hochul made the following remarks: “‘I’m going to talk about parental control over this, but I also say, it’s something that comes down to the Legislature anyhow. The Legislature makes the determination in consultation with health experts for next year’s school year. We’re not talking about mandating the COVID vaccine in schools at this time.’”

Rep. Zeldin said, “‘Let me be clear to all the parents who are out there: I will not mandate COVID vaccines for your kids, ever. I don’t believe there should be COVID vaccine mandates right now for our kids at SUNY, CUNY, community colleges right now and elsewhere.’”

There is a major contrast between the two candidates’ positions on this issue. Rep. Zeldin has been clear and definitive in his opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchildren. However, Gov. Hochul has left the door open to a potential future shift in her position. The ambiguity of the Governor’s remarks gives rise to the possibility that she might reverse course on this controversial issue after Election Day. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Governor expressed support for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchildren in comments she made last December. At that time, Gov. Hochul acknowledged that the COVID-19 vaccine could not be added to the list of required vaccines for schoolchildren without action by the Legislature.

Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said: “Rep. Lee Zeldin is right to recognize that a COVID vaccine mandate for school attendance is first and foremost a matter of parental rights. Who has jurisdiction over a child’s healthcare, parents or politicians? The answer for every New Yorker should be clear. Mom and dad care more about their children than Kathy Hochul ever could.”

Parents across New York should be aware that a proposed bill, Bill A.8378-Dinowitz, would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines for schoolchildren once the vaccine has been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control advisory committees. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms stands opposed to this bill, which would infringe upon parental rights and religious liberty. Moving forward, New Yorkers who oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates should be on guard against this legislation.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control voted to include the COVID-19 vaccine in its schedule of recommended vaccines for the year 2023. Gov. Hochul’s spokesperson released a statement that read as follows: “‘Governor Hochul continues to encourage all eligible New Yorkers to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, and we take recommendations handed down by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices seriously. While there is a legislative process to add any vaccination to the state’s required immunization for school children, we will closely review any recommendation handed down by the advisory committee.’”