New York’s strict public health policies have sparked widespread backlash from employees who were fired or otherwise penalized for failing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Weeks after the World Health Organization downgraded COVID-19’s pandemic status and amid a lawsuit joined by many of the state’s healthcare workers, the New York State Department of Health announced that it will be rolling back its vaccination mandates later this year.
The Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate for health care workers in New York state is officially dead.pic.twitter.com/RiQ6ERYGGc
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) May 24, 2023
“Due to the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving vaccine recommendations, the New York State Department of Health has begun the process of repealing the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for workers at regulated healthcare facilities,” the agency confirmed.
The announcement came ahead of a decision by an appeals court regarding whether state regulators could enforce the mandate. Authorities cited the health department’s planned repeal of the requirement in calling on the court to toss out the lawsuit.
Although the mandate will not be officially overturned until September, the agency indicated that it would not implement any new enforcement during the interim period.
“However, it should be noted that facilities should continue to implement their own internal policies regarding COVID-19 vaccination,” the department added.
Estimates indicate that more than 30,000 unvaccinated healthcare workers have been fired — or resigned to avoid termination — out of the roughly 1 million who were impacted by the statewide mandate.
Attorney Sujata Sidhu Gibson, who represents healthcare personnel in the lawsuit, asserted that the agency’s decision is not sufficient to completely dismiss the legal action. She noted that an appeals court ruling in the case could have a wide-ranging impact on the state’s authority to mandate vaccines for other diseases.
Other Democratic-led states that passed similarly draconian COVID-19 public health policies have already repealed vaccine and mask mandates. In California, health officials rolled back such controversial requirements in March — but not everyone in the state’s healthcare community believed it was the right decision.
California Nurses Association Executive Director Bonnie Castillo claimed at the time that repealing the mandates was “a failure of public health leadership,” adding: “Abandoning these standards is a counterproductive and unscientific approach to curbing the spread and evolution of Covid-19. This decision endangers the health and safety of nurses and other health care workers, hurts their ability to access personal protective equipment from employers, and ultimately exacerbates the health care staffing crisis that political leaders have vowed to tackle.”