A New York State Supreme Court struck down a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in a decision Friday, the Conservative Brief reported. Judge Gerard Neri ruled that the mandate is "null, void, and of no effect."
The legal challenge came in October from Medical Professionals for Informed Consent, a group of medical workers who challenged the vaccine mandate implemented by the New York State Department of Health. The mandate was originally implemented by former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021.
It continued under Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Commissioner for New York State, as well as the DOH. However, the court found that the Health Department was not authorized to make such a mandate under public health laws.
"In true Orwellian fashion, the Respondents acknowledge then-current COVID-19 shots do not prevent transmission," Neri said of the decision. The DOH was undeterred, however.
"The requirement that healthcare 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," a statement from the agency said. "The State Health Department strongly disagrees with the judge’s decision and is exploring all options," the statement added.
However, medical professionals were pleased with the decision to maintain their freedoms. "It feels like it should’ve happened, you know, a long time ago," registered nurse Rachel Ponka said. "It’s definitely great news to hear, and I’m sure a lot of people are relieved about it," she added.
Ponka was fired from her job at a senior care center when she did not get the jab. "It was heartbreaking, and it really shook me up, and I went through some pretty bad depression financially," Ponka said.
She called the ruling a good start to making things right. Legal expert Steven M. Cohen, who is litigation chair for HoganWillig Law Firm, explained the legal justification Neri used.
"What his honor did is he said, ‘Look, whether you want to take the vaccine or not, that’s up to you, but it’s not up to the executive branch of government,'" he said. However, Cohen cautioned that it would likely be appealed.
There have been many lawsuits against vaccine mandates, and the results have been mixed. In New York City, a requirement for municipal workers was struck down in October, with the city forced to compensate those fired for refusing the jab, the New York Post reported.
The judge ordered the workers to be "reinstated to their full employment status" following the ruling. They were also "entitled to back pay in salary from the date of termination."
However, the U.S. Supreme Court would not block the mandate for medical employees when the issue came before it late last year. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is in charge of New York's emergency appeals, would not hear the case even as the matter was reviewed by a lower court.
Similarly, she refused a case brought by public school teachers and assistants as well as a challenge from a police detective in August. The nation's high court also rejected challenges based on religious grounds.
The freedom to decline a medical procedure seems fundamental. While any victory is a step in the right direction, the fact that these mandates were implemented at all is troubling.