Gov. Kathy Hochul angered many New Yorkers on December 10, 2021 when she announced that the New York State Department of Health had instituted a new statewide mask mandate for indoor public places. Undaunted, Gov. Hochul recently stated that she wants to go even further by imposing a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools.
In a December 17, 2021 interview with MSNBC, the Governor mentioned that she wants a vaccine mandate implemented in schools by the time the 2022-2023 schoolyear begins. Gov. Hochul did, however, acknowledge that she lacked the authority to create such a mandate on her own without legislative action. The Governor added that she is already having discussions with members of the State Legislature about passing a vaccine mandate law. Unfortunately, New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams reportedly supports a vaccine mandate in New York City schools as well.
In October 2021, a bill (Bill A.8378-Dinowitz) was introduced that would add the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of vaccinations students must obtain to attend New York schools. The bill differs somewhat from Gov. Hochul’s stated proposal; while Gov. Hochul wishes to implement a vaccine mandate in schools prior to the 2022-2023 school year, Bill A.8378 would delay such a mandate from going into effect until 30 days after a COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (Currently, the FDA has only issued an emergency authorization for COVID-19 vaccination in children ages five through 11.)
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) recognizes that there are no easy answers when dealing with a pandemic. Here in New York, there has been a disturbing spike in COVID-19-related hospitalizations of children in recent weeks. On the one hand, New York schools must take appropriate measures to keep students safe. Failure to do so could jeopardize children’s health. It could also lead to a surge in COVID-19 infections that could cause schools to shut down and return to online-only instruction, a scenario that all New Yorkers should wish to avoid. Some parents might find COVID-19 vaccination to be the right solution for their kids. On the other hand, mandating COVID-19 vaccination for students would take a sensitive and controversial decision out of parents’ hands and place that decision in the hands of the state. Some New Yorkers have religious objections to COVID-19 vaccination. Others are concerned that the long-term effects of the vaccines are not yet known. The state should respect parents’ authority in their children’s lives. Also, the state should beware of unintended consequences; the City of Los Angeles recently delayed implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools after it became clear that the mandate would result in 30,000 unvaccinated students being returned to online-only instruction.
NYCF appreciates the fact that Gov. Hochul wants to keep schools open. We also appreciate the fact that she is inviting legislative action in regard to a COVID-19 vaccination mandate in schools instead of taking executive action. Nevertheless, NYCF opposes the Governor’s school vaccine mandate proposal. It is impossible to know what the situation with the pandemic will be in September 2022. Rather than taking a drastic, premature step that encroaches upon the authority of parents and entangles the state in the operations of Christian schools, the state should take a wait-and-see approach that emphasizes education and guidance instead of top-down requirements.
Please write to your state lawmakers today and ask them to speak out against Gov. Hochul’s proposal to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for students.