Court-Mandated COVID-19 Vaccination Could Cause Constitutional Chaos

COVID-19 electromicrograph

I got an email today from the New York State Bar Association with this text therein:

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, during her coronavirus update today, responded to the pending lawsuits from several unions challenging the state court system’s mandatory vaccination requirement.

…[W]e look forward to demonstrating that the vaccine requirement is fully within our legal powers as a responsible, appropriate and necessary response to the serious threat that COVID-19 poses to the health and safety of our workforce, and the public we serve,” said DiFiore. “And while we hope that the legal challenges will be resolved shortly, it is important for everyone to know and understand that the employees represented by the unions that have secured temporary relief at this point will continue to undergo COVID testing on a weekly basis, so as to ensure a safe and healthy environment to the best of our ability.”

“DiFiore said she was encouraged by the fact that 97% of court staff who are not parties to the lawsuits have submitted proof of vaccination or a request for a medical or religious exemption. She said “almost all” of the state’s judges have submitted proof of vaccination or an exemption request. The court system’s vaccination mandate went into effect last Monday.

“Kudos to every single one of them for setting the example for our entire branch of government and demonstrating their commitment and leadership in doing what is right and responsible to safeguard the health and safety of the folks they work with, and the many thousands of court users and visitors who enter our buildings,” said DiFiore.

DiFiore also had a message for the “small minority” of employees who have refused the vaccination.

“[W]e understand and respect that they may have different views on this issue, but I want to make it absolutely clear that we have exhaustively studied, examined and discussed the vaccination question, and the bottom line is that all of the data and every factor we look at – whether it relates to science and public health or law and ethics – points to the same conclusion: vaccination of our judges and nonjudicial workforce is the responsible, proper and necessary course of action for our institution,” said DiFiore.”

This may get very interesting very quickly. The issue is that the New York State court system is a state agency; the courts are not a private enterprise. This state agency is requiring its employees to get a medicine pumped into their bodies … and it’s a medicine that not all of them want to receive. Thus, the problem of government interference with private matters … like healthcare … can easily come into play here. That interference can quickly rise to a constitutional issue under several of the Bill of Rights amendments. Court employees do, after all, have rights.

But just how far do our rights extend? Do we actually have the right to choose not to get vaccinated in the face of a world pandemic?

Let me point out that there are ample examples of mandated vaccination in the annals of US history, going all the way back to George Washington’s mandate to the people of the newly formed United States of America to get inoculated against smallpox (and that inoculation did not get nearly the testing that even the COVID19 mRNA vaccines got because the science to do the testing was not yet available). The mandates continue today through the school-based inoculation requirements (kids have to be vaccinated against several childhood diseases to attend public school). We dutifully get our flu shots each year (I’ve gotten mine for the 2021-22 flu season already).

Through mandatory vaccination, we have dramatically lessened the impact of several former scourge diseases. Smallpox lives only in a few vials in a couple of biohazard level 4 labs; measles, diphtheria, tetanus, mumps, rubella, and all the rest of the legion of childhood diseases against which we now vaccinate no longer kill or maim the vast numbers they used to do. Influenza still exists … and still kills … because that bug mutates very very quickly and the flu vaccine is an annual crap shoot as to which strains will be most active in the upcoming flu season.

Now we come to COVID19. This is a new bug. We haven’t seen it before 2019, and it took the world by storm. Millions of people have gotten sick; many have died; many have been left with long-term effects; many have recovered completely. Many are now vaccinated with a vaccine that appeared to be very quickly developed and approved … it took the COVID shots about ten months to wend their way through the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) minefield of approval processing where it takes most new drugs several years. The patent world is abuzz with new COVID-related inventions; the trademark world is delightedly registering COVID19 drug names by the boatload.

The speed of that FDA approval process seems to be the problem for those many who have not gotten their COVID vaccines. And I get it. The theory is that this is a new drug … heck, an mRNA vaccine is a whole new type of drug … that we’re injecting into our bodies with little testing. Okay. That can be seen as a valid argument in the face of things like the thalidomide disaster in the 1950s and 1960s.

But the COVID vaccine is not thalidomide; mRNA is, in fact, a chemical manufactured by our bodies; it’s equivalent to the cars that bring cargo to a train; mRNA brings the amino acids that build our proteins to the protein manufacturing line (the “m” stands for “messenger”). The minimal risk an individual faces of developing a serious side effect from having an mRNA vaccine injected pales when compared to the threat to public health that unvaccinated people present. COVID is a proven killer; why would we not, en masse, take every conceivable precaution against transmitting and catching the disease? Are we really so self-absorbed that we cannot see our way clear to take steps to avoid infecting our families, friends and neighbors who may be especially susceptible to COVID effects?

As I have pointed out, there is a long history of public-health vaccination mandates regarding the containment of the spread of disease. COVID is just another example of a public-health vaccination mandate.

I’ve had my COVID shots. I felt rotten for a couple of days after the second shot. I have not yet gotten a booster because I am not yet eligible for a booster. That I am fully vaccinated is not a political statement; it is a public health statement. I do not want to infect others, and I do not want to be infected myself. The COVID19 virus does not care what side of the aisle you espouse; it infects Republicans with the same enthusiasm with which it infects Democrats.

It’s entirely your choice whether or not to follow the mandate and vaccinate yourself and your loved ones, but as the parent of an immunocompromised and very productive member of society, I will have something to say to you if my kid comes down with COVID and dies (and no, I do not exaggerate; my pulmonary-compromised kid is more likely than are many to go into COVID-related ARDS and leave the planet; she already has an ARDS history) because you decided to exercise your “right” to be a shedding germ factory.

The “right” is there for you to exercise control over what goes into your body. Your “right,” however, ends where mine begins. And I have the right to remain healthy, especially since we now have an effective vaccine. If you want to avoid vaccination, fine; wear your mask, keep your social distance, wash your hands very very often, and don’t infect me and mine.