What are the details?
State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal — who represents portions of Manhattan's west side — says that if enough New York residents don't voluntarily get the COVID-19 vaccination when it's available, lawmakers should consider making the vaccine mandatory.
"While steps have been taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, epidemiologist and public health experts have concluded that a vaccine will be necessary to develop herd immunity and ultimately stop the spread of the disease," Rosenthal's bill support memo stated, according to WNYW. "[T]he State must make efforts to promote vaccination and ensure that a high enough percentage of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19 to develop sufficient immunity."
The station noted, "Once the vaccination program has been rolled out for a while, the Department of Health would have the authority to 'mandate vaccination' to anyone who can 'safely receive the vaccine' if public health officials see that New Yorkers aren't developing 'sufficient immunity from COVID-19.'"
The bill, Assembly Bill A11179, would permit medically exempt people to abstain from receiving the vaccination if they receive proper documentation from a medical professional.
Rosenthal told WGRZ-TV that a forced vaccine is a "protective health measure."
"It's to ensure that our residents are safe and protected against further spread," she reasoned. "[T]he concept of herd immunity is very important, and not everyone will have to get the vaccination if a certain threshold of the population has gotten it."
WGRZ reports that Rosenthal "indicated that the threshold would have to be 75% to 80%.
"However, there is the possibility that we don't and in that event to protect the public health, the department of health of the state can then say that we need people to get the vaccination," Rosenthal added.
Earlier in December, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, "You can't mandate that somebody takes the vaccine. ... We're trying to do it the other way — education, show that it's safe."
In a statement to WKBW-TV, Rosenthal said:
I introduced this legislation because like all of us, I have seen too many families ravaged by COVID-19. I have lost loved ones and friends and have seen too many people become sick and die from a disease that has wreaked havoc on every aspect of our lives for nearly a year. Now, as we get closer to the day when a lifesaving vaccine will finally be widely available to the American public, I am hearing a concerning uptick in dangerous anti-science, anti-vax rhetoric that has the potential to endanger our health, damage our economy and delay our return to normalcy.
If enough science deniers opt out of the voluntary vaccine process, we will not achieve the necessary level of community immunity, which will undermine the efficacy of our vaccination efforts statewide. Obviously, our hope is that with robust education and outreach, the vast majority of New Yorkers will volunteer to get vaccinated. If not, my new legislation will ensure that we achieve a safe level of community protection. Herd immunity won't protect everyone, but if a high enough percentage of the population gets vaccinated, then the likelihood of community spread is low enough to enable a return to normal life, for students, parents, small businesses – everyone, who has been struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally for the last nine months. Our heroic medical professionals and support staff have been on the frontlines of this pandemic for too long. Achieving herd immunity will help lift the inordinate burden under which they have been toiling.