Judge Tosses COVID Mandate for Health Care Personnel

On January 13, 2023, a trial court judge in Syracuse found the state regulation requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be invalid and unenforceable.

In Medical Professionals for Informed Consent v. Bassett, State Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neri held that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York State Department of Health had acted without authorization in imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate upon healthcare personnel. According to attorneys at the law firm of Bond Schoeneck & King, “because mandatory immunization programs may only be implemented pursuant to specific provisions of the public health law, and because the public health law does not speak to COVID-19 vaccination, Judge Neri held that the mandatory vaccination requirements created by the Regulation were determined to be ‘beyond the scope of Respondents’ authority.’”

Also, Judge Neri reportedly ruled that the vaccine mandate was “arbitrary and capricious” because the Department of Health could change the definition of the term “fully vaccinated” whenever it chose to do so.

Following the court’s decision, the Department of Health commented, “‘The requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 protects vulnerable New Yorkers and the people who care for them, and it is a critical public health tool. The State Health Department strongly disagrees with the judge’s decision and is exploring all options.’” An appeal of the judge’s decision is possible.

The court’s decision to strike down the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers is a victory for personal and religious liberty. It also provides a welcome check on an overreaching executive branch of state government. It is hoped that the court’s ruling will help to alleviate shortages in healthcare personnel around the state.