Firing New Yorkers for Not Getting the COVID Vaccine is Wrong | Congressman Lee Zeldin

Firing New Yorkers for Not Getting the COVID Vaccine is Wrong

October 15, 2021
Press Release
Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin

Governor Hochul’s mandate requiring healthcare workers to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or forfeit their jobs, unless they have a medical exemption or previously applied for a religious one, recently went into effect. The mandate has caused further staffing shortages and chaos in our state’s healthcare system and abruptly forced frontline workers out of their jobs.

It certainly didn’t have to be this way. With simple measures like enhanced PPE and testing requirements, we could have kept hospital staff and patients safe without throwing our healthcare system into chaos or kicking people out of their jobs who sacrificed to keep others safe during the pandemic’s worst days.

I made the personal choice to be vaccinated, and I encourage everyone to consult with their doctor and come to a decision that is best for them. I voted consistently to fund vaccine research, development and distribution as early as March 2020. Here on Long Island, as the vaccines were becoming more widely available to the public, I successfully urged the state to establish state vaccination sites on the East End so that all Long Islanders who wanted these shots could have convenient access to them. However, I believe it should be up to individuals, not the government, to decide whether or not they receive the COVID vaccine.

Our healthcare workers were nothing short of heroic the past 18 months. Regardless of the uncertainty, lack of PPE and other essential resources at times, gruelingly long hours, and pain, suffering death all around them, they rose to the challenge over and over again and helped us navigate some of the pandemic’s darkest days and saved lives. We shouldn’t be firing these essential workers; we should be thanking them for all they’ve done for our communities. Governor Hochul chose to throw our state’s healthcare system into a potential “crisis level” staffing chaos to prove a political point. “Crisis level” are her words, not mine.

Some hospitals throughout the state have postponed elective procedures and maternity services. Governor Hochul even broached the possibility of replacing displaced healthcare workers with the National Guard or foreign workers. Families and mortgages are now caught in the crosshairs and healthcare workers, unable to even file for unemployment, are at risk of losing everything by the stroke of a pen from one governor who was on his way out of office in disgrace and another who wasn’t even elected to the position.

These harmful vaccine mandates are not just limited to the State of New York’s healthcare workers. New York City teachers, other Americans across the nation who work for businesses of 100 or more employees and, most recently, schoolchildren in California are all being forced to get the COVID vaccine to go to work or attend school. As for everyone being allowed to illegally cross our border and be released further into the country, they don’t face any vaccine mandate.

The California mandate for kids to attend school is especially troubling, and I’m concerned Governor Hochul will follow this bad example. Whether or not a child gets vaccinated against COVID-19 should be entirely up to his or her parents. Considering the science and data, vaccines widely available for educators and other staff, treatment and testing options continuing to get even better, and other mitigation measures still in effect, New York State should absolutely not require the COVID vaccine for schoolchildren.

President Biden said in December 2020 regarding vaccinations, “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory.” It’s time that the President, Governor Hochul and other elected leaders across the country take this advice to heart and trust the American people to make decisions that are best for themselves and their families instead of imposing harmful and punitive mandates, which negatively impact our healthcare system, schools and private businesses and further sow resentment and distrust within our society.