New York bill would make COVID vaccine *mandatory* unless herd immunity is reached

The COVID vaccines are about to start rolling out in the United States, at least assuming that the allergic reaction snafu in Great Britain doesn’t derail everything. Of course, not everyone will be able to get a shot next week. The method for determining who gets to go first (assuming you plan to get it at all) is still a bit fuzzy. But out in New York State, one lawmaker is working on a bill that will make sure everyone gets a fair chance at it. And if not enough people take advantage of the offer, she’s going to try to use the power of the state to force you to comply. You know… for your own good. (Spectrum News, New York)

The vast majority of New Yorkers will most likely not receive a vaccine until the end of the spring or early summer of 2021.

However, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill that would require the state to start planning how to mandate New Yorkers take the COVID-19 vaccine, if a certain herd immunity is not reached.

“I want to caution, it (the bill) doesn’t say that someone is going to come to your house in the middle of the night and stick a needle in your arm with a COVID vaccine,” Assemblywoman Rosenthal explained. “It actually says that if the state does not reach herd immunity.”

There are so many things wrong with this idea that it’s hard to know where to start. The bill’s author and chief sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, is saying that the mandatory provision would only kick in if the state of New York fails to reach a certain level of “herd immunity.” But who determines when that level is reached? She’s saying that the Department of Health will make that determination based on how many people are vaccinated. The initial number she’s floating is 75%.

But what about the people who have already contracted the novel coronavirus and survived? Don’t they count toward the total herd immunity numbers? Assuming they do, the bill still fails to explain precisely how they plan on counting everyone who either has acquired immunity or has gotten the vaccine. Surely HIPPA privacy rules have to be a consideration here.

And then there’s the question of enforcement. Rosenthal knows how bad this entire idea smells and she was quick to tell everyone to “chill” for the time being. She claims that nobody is going to “come to your house in the middle of the night and stick a needle in your arm.” But her assurances ring rather hollow. Attempting to enforce this law, assuming it passes, would be a disaster waiting to happen.

Let’s say that the Health Department sets the mandatory level at 75% as Rosenthal suggests, but only 65% of New York residents go get vaccinated. They’re going to need to make sure that an additional 10% (or 1.95 million people) are vaccinated. Who will be deciding which 1.95 million will be forced to comply while the other roughly five million people are left alone? And what about the people who refuse? Do they just keep going down the naughty list until they find two million who are willing to be bullied into it? What use is a law if people can simply tell the enforcement agents to go take a long walk off of a short pier?

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay took the right tone in responding to this proposal. While he plans to get the vaccine himself (and urges his constituents to do likewise), he described Rosenthal’s proposal as a “knee jerk reaction… to take away civil liberties.” Welcome to New York, Mr. Minority Leader. Perhaps you haven’t noticed during your time in office, but taking away civil liberties has been the calling card of New York Democrats since well before the pandemic blew into town.