Linda Rosenthal Proposes Bill to Mandate Vaccine if ‘Science Deniers’ Keep New York from Herd Immunity


Health care workers are getting the first vaccines. Photos via NYC Mayor’s Office.

By Amelia Roth-Dishy

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout dominates the national news cycle, the Upper West Side’s own Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced two bills proposing significant regulatory rules for vaccination in New York State.

The first, Bill No. A.11175, requires the state to subsidize vaccination for all its residents regardless of immigration status.

The second and more controversial bill, No. A11179, proposes that the state can mandate vaccination if the level of voluntary vaccination is not high enough to result in herd immunity. The bill allows people with medical exemptions to be excluded from this mandate.

In a press release, Rosenthal (pictured at right) said, “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.” She also cited Dr. Anthony Fauci’s claim earlier this month that herd immunity could be achieved if 75-85% of the population received the vaccine. The number has proved a shifting target– other public health experts have stated that a 70% vaccination rate would be sufficient. In a Gallup poll conducted at the end of October, 42% of American adults said that they would not get a vaccine.

Right now, New York State has about 170,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on hand, with another 340,000 expected from Moderna once the company receives FDA approval. Rosenthal said in an interview with the Rag that based on the numbers available, the state won’t even have capacity to vaccinate 70% of the population, and thereby approach herd immunity, until at least early spring.

“My bill was, and is, meant to have people think about, what does this state have to do in the long run if we don’t get to herd immunity?” she said.

“My deepest hope,” she added, “is that 70% of the population actually takes the vaccine.”

The bill, which was introduced on Dec. 4, is currently sitting with the Assembly Health Committee and has already generated some controversy — some of it particularly nasty. Steve McLaughlin, a former Republican State Assemblymember currently serving as the Rensselaer County Executive, tweeted about the bill on December 7. He wrote, “Not a shock that Rosenthal, one of the biggest nitwits in the Assembly, would push this… So much for “your body your choice” huh Linda?”

In response, Assemblymember Rosenthal posted screenshots of a New York Times article about disciplinary measures issued against McLaughlin for sexual harassment, captioning them “This you? #NotFakeNews.”

As to whether the bill has the support of her caucus, Rosenthal said that it was too early to know and that their priority when the body reconvenes in January is mitigating the financial repercussions of the pandemic. “I’ve heard from constituents in favor and against [the bill,]” she said. “But really my constituents are just terribly worried about making ends meet.”

In remarks made on December 2 at a COVID-19 update, Governor Cuomo stated, “you can’t mandate that somebody takes the vaccine.” He said that the state’s approach would instead focus on educational campaigns to encourage voluntary participation. Reached by Buffalo NBC affiliate WGRZ last week, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) said she hadn’t read the bill in full but, “at first blush, she would not be inclined to support it,” they reported.

On the New York State Senate website, which is not necessarily known for robust digital engagement, a number of comments expressing concern about the bill have each received 40-60 ‘upvotes.’ “No vaccine should ever be mandated, my body my choice applies here,” reads one comment with 59 upvotes.

“I think some people have let their imaginations run away with them in terms of how this bill would be enforced,” Rosenthal told the Rag. The bill as it stands has no enforcement clause, and she stated that is not intended to be punitive. According to the assemblymember’s office, the thrust of the legislation is instead to empower, but not require, the New York State Department of Health to issue a mandate if herd immunity is not reached.

In response to public concern about a vaccine mandate due to possible unknown side effects, Rosenthal emphasized the medical exemption clause. “I’m hearing about, people are afraid if they’re allergic to the ingredients, etc., well of course then they would get a medical exemption,” she said. “That’s just common sense, there’s no need for a tempest in a teapot for this. If your doctor says no, well then obviously you shouldn’t take it.”

While the ethics and legality of a vaccine mandate are hot-button issues right now, Rosenthal’s bill is perhaps the only, and certainly the most high-profile, example that’s been introduced in any state legislature so far. Dr. Fauci has reiterated that the federal government will not make the vaccine obligatory nationwide. “You cannot force someone to take a vaccine,” he said at a town hall in August. States and localities can condition certain services on proof of vaccination, and private employers may have grounds to require workers to get the shot as well. The Boston Globe published an article this week outlining what it would look like for private and public sector entities to mandate, or incentivize, vaccination.

The Health Law Section of the New York State Bar Association recently released a 90-page “COVID-19 Report” that offered several recommendations for vaccine rollout, including making vaccination mandatory if the voluntary program did not achieve herd immunity. “Should it become necessary to mandate the vaccine for some or all the state’s residents, the legal right of the state to do so is well-established,” said NYS Bar Association President Scott M. Karson in a press release. “We thank Assembly Member Rosenthal for her work on this important issue.”

Rosenthal expressed that the discourse around vaccination mandates has redirected the conversation away from the central issue of ending the pandemic. “The goal is to protect everyone in society from contracting COVID,” she said. “I think we’re losing sight of it. That is the goal. That is the goal around the world.

“And hopefully,” she added, “common sense will prevail and people will get there themselves.”

NEWS | 55 comments | permalink
    1. "science" denier says:

      One more reason to leave New York. I know you “science” believers won’t miss me, and neither will I miss your medical marshal law. Will you also ban travel into the state for anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated? Good luck with that. Asta la vista, baby.

      • jezbel says:

        Good riddance – and don’t let the screen door hit you on the ass on the way out. When polio was an issue it was mandated. When smallpox was an issue it was mandated. Now measles come back around and threaten the lives of innocent children. And with a worldwide pandemic of a live threatening disease is here – you hit the road. Good bye, and good luck. Hope you’re not over 65 or have a pre-existing condition.

      • Astrid says:

        Why the sarcastic quotation marks? Do you think science is a made-up concept?

        Also, it’s martial law, not marshal law.

    2. PastramiBliss says:

      You’ll have to get a few big burly men to strap me down in a chair a la A Clockwork Orange to to take the vaccine. Get lost Rosenthal.

    3. Marianne says:

      Even the US surgeon general said “companies shouldn’t mandate Covid-19 vaccine. No vaccine should ever be mandated. My body my choice!

      • lilybelle says:

        This isn’t about whether or not to have a baby. It’s whether or no you and those around you live or die. When a highly resistant strain of tuberculosis was found in a few people who refused to quarantine and be treated – they were arrested and forced into quarantine. We don’t want Typoid Mary’s all over the place. You don’t have the right the threaten the lives of others.

    4. blacklikeu says:

      First was all must get the Affordable Care Act – Obama Care.
      That was found to be unconstitutional.
      Now all must get vaccinated?
      It will be found to be unconstitutional as well.

    5. Robert Sheridan says:

      Quit amusing how these pols with, likely, ZERO “science” training talk about “following the science” and “Science Deniers.”

      Her website reports Ms. Rosenthal has a BA (Arts degree) in history yet she pontificates on science with zero formal credentials.

      I do have a science degree from a prominent eastern school. I’d be happy to see real “science” on this matter not wordmongering by pols happy to tell other people how to lead their lives while dining maskless in elite restaurants or traveling with families while telling us to lock down, stay home for the holidays as our Governor had in mind.

      These are the same “pro choice” pols who say “My body, my choice” . . . except when it’s not convenient to their agenda of the moment.

      These same pols have managed to largely destroy the economy, jobs, future of New York City with how they have managed Covid so far.

      Almost a year ago we were promised that 15 days of “lockdown” to “flatten the curve” was all that would be asked of us. Now we are in the devastated wasteland these pols have visited upon us (those remaining, not having fled elsewhere). Thank you Cuomo, deBlasio, Rosenthal.

      Show me REAL SCIENCE and we can talk. But, cut the political jingoism.

      That’s just one more reason Most Americans detest politicians.

      .

    6. Ruth says:

      It’s time someone started pushing this consideration about what to do about the anti-vaxers!

      The “right to choice” here is NOT a fair comparison to that right as it regards abortion, & only a sexist who has never cared about what to do with his own pregnancy would suggest they are equivalent: Whether or not I myself choose an abortion does not threaten the health of any other woman, but if I choose to refuse a vaccine against a highly contagious deadly disease, I endanger everyone else in my community.

      But how to enforce it? Not by forced vaccination but rather by containing the damage to others which anyone who refuses this vaccine (or polio vaccine or other public health necessities) poses. Those who choose to refuse to help their neighbors survive should be kept in strict quarantine, in complete isolation from the responsible majority, & in times of War like now, that quarantine should be enforced as necessary. Anti-vaxers who are thereby empowering a plague should be denied any & all access to all public areas; they have no right to take their elected diseases onto public transit, into public elevators, through public corridors, or among others in stores, schools, or offices.

      For all I care, they could be nailed into their homes as they were during the Black Plague, & we can collect their dead on the street.

      • Marianne says:

        Ruth: yours is an angry, frightening and totalitarian statement. Do you know the exact components of the vaccine? Do you know that we’re told even if we’re vaccinated we have to continue wearing the masks and socially distance? Do you question at all it’s efficacy if that’s the case? Have you heard about the failed mass vaccination in 1976 where president Ford rushed a vaccine against the swine flu that paralyzed some and after 42 million Americans were vaccinated it was admitted that it failed? There is a 60-minute piece on it from 1976. I’m concerned about the rushed roll- out without in-depth trials. Are you at all concerned about possible side effects? I was vaccinated against polio as a child and was paralyzed as a result. Thank god the feeling came back into my legs. The scariest experience of my life.

        • RG2020 says:

          Don’t forget thalidomide that was supposed to help women with morning sickness during pregnancy and resulted in thousands of physical abnormalities! While I’m generally all for vaccinations, as a woman of child bearing age I’ll be holding off until I’m done having children or we’ve seen the longterm effects.

      • babrarus says:

        “For all I care, they could be nailed into their homes as they were during the Black Plague, & we can collect their dead on the street.”

        Such nice and kind words Ruth.
        Never knew you had it in you.
        Glad to know now that you do.
        Geeeeeeez, a heart of gold.

      • Ruth, You are out of order. “Collect their dead on the streets” “nailed into their homes” for having a different viewpoint than yours which has been wholly shaped by mass media mind control? May I respectfully suggest you do some serious research on this virus and this vaccine before continuing to issue further dangerous condemnation.

      • Sick of UWSer says:

        Actually Ruth, your abortion does have a huge impact on another woman or man as that clump of cells is another distinct human being growing. My body my choice goes beyond the death of babies.

      • PastramiBliss says:

        Plenty of people among us are ready to be as cruel as the most despised regimes in the world of the twentieth century (Third Reich, USSR), and today (CCP). Thank you Ruth for enlightening us to how twisted “ordinary” Americans can become.

      • Dear Ruth: If I wasn’t so toothless I would be ruthless in my truthful rebuttal to you.

      • sg says:

        What nonsense…this is not like the Black Plague, not even close. The mortality rate was astronomical…but then again that was 500 years ago, we’ve learned a few things since then. With COVID, only the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions have any real risk of serious harm. The Government should have focused on protecting these folks instead of being so heavy handed.

      • UWSgirl says:

        Wow I’ve attempted to post many tame and polite things that the moderators on this site have rejected because it’s not in line with their politics. This is completely hate filled and unhinged. But I guess it fits the narrative. Sorry Ruth, as someone who DOES want the choice to have a baby one day, I will not take a vaccine that risks infertility. If you get vaccinated, you should not be worried about those that choose not to.. MY BODY MY CHOICE.

    7. Cindy says:

      I’m not sure how much can be mandated when the vaccine is under Emergency Use Authorization rather than being licensed.

    8. zarnoogy says:

      Linda,
      You were/are such a leader with the homeless/Lucerne issue – we thank you much.
      Now you are the leader with the vaccines.
      We thank you much.
      You are term limited at your current position.
      We ask you to please run for mayor in 2021.
      Better yet, run for the US Senate, challenging Schumer in 2022.
      Unseat him and we’ll thank you much.
      Anything you do we will be right behind you as long as you leave the UWS and let us live in peace without your leadership.
      We will survive and we will thank you much.

      • MSNBC4ME says:

        Re: “We ask you to please run for mayor in 2021.Better yet, run for the US Senate, challenging Schumer in 2022.Unseat him….”
        Yes, Rosenthal should run for mayor. She’ll LOSE, of course, and then we’ll be rid of her forever!
        BUT why do we need to unseat Senator Schumer? What has he done to deserve this? He’s consistently voted “correctly”, but as long as Mitch McConnell and his crew runs the show nothing good will happen.
        Hopefully the Georgia run-off January 5th will break the Republican logjam.

        • zarnoogy says:

          Useat Schumer for the simple reason that I think term limits is the ultimate way to get rid of lifers in politics.
          Schumer is a step above some of the others, but he too has been in forever.
          Time for a change, top to bottom.
          But of course “dear” Linda will lose, and we will get rid of her, once and for all.
          Amen!

    9. EdNY says:

      Actually, the answer is quite simple. Assuming the vaccines work (which seems highly likely), once everyone who wants the vaccine has taken it, dispense with mask-wearing and all other restrictions. Those who don’t want the vaccine can and will assume the risk of becoming infected.

      • Artie says:

        I wish it was that simple. But there are people who won’t be able to get the vaccine even though they want to (i.e. people with severe allergies, people getting cancer treatment, etc). Without herd immunity, those people are being put at risk due to others not getting the vaccine. Fortunately, workplaces already mandate vaccines for employees (schools/colleges mandate vaccines for students, hospitals mandate vaccines for employees), etc. Those mandates and even local mandates have been upheld by the Supreme Court, so there’s no reason we can’t ensure herd immunity via immunization by late 2021. 🙂

    10. Anthony says:

      I plan to take the vaccine. But it should not be mandatory. It’s a new type of vaccine for a new disease developed in record time and approved by regulators under extreme conditions. I can understand others may choose not to take it and we should not be forcing people to take a vaccine.
      What’s the point anyway, if everyone that takes it is protected? Those more concerned with covid than potential vaccine side effects will take it and be protected and those who don’t won’t and if they get it than so be it.

    11. Vince says:

      We can’t allow these leaders to get away with their nefarious agendas. Let’s touch base in a few months to discuss the adverse effects from being vaccinated. There is no quick fix. The overall 2020 death rate in the US is predicted to be lower than the previous year. How is this a pandemic?? In terms of the vaccine, Dr. Fauci admitted in May 2020 to the US Senate committee that “there is no guarantee that a vaccine is actually going to be effective”. We can’t find an effective vaccine for the flu, suddenly we have a 95% effective covid19 vaccine? Hey Ruth, I offer you my place in line.

      • Less deaths says:

        I haven’t looked at the numbers, but generlh, auto accidents are a huge part of the American death toll number. I would imagine a big number of those deaths have been reduced, as well as other causes of death since people have been inside a lot in 2020

    12. Otis says:

      People are understandably cautious about the vaccine.

      Yes, there are plenty of anti-science screwballs but there are also legitimate concerns about it.

      Perhaps a carrot rather than a stick approach will encourage more people to get the shot once the vaccine becomes widely available.

      Rosenthal’s forceful approach will alienate many people.

      • Natalie says:

        Well said. I plan on getting the vaccine as soon as it’s available to my age group, but making it mandatory is a bad idea and will, as you note, alienate many.

    13. denton says:

      What’s the rush? Let everyone who wants it have it. Why are we talking about mandatory vaccination when there isn’t even enough yet for health care workers? From my pov, the more people that won’t take it, the faster I can get to the front of the line.

      • Lauren says:

        I have been having the exact same thought! We should be so lucky that everyone who WANTS one can get it. All I can think when I hear of those who don’t want it – good! More for everyone else. And if a wealthy country like the USA ends up with more doses than we have use for because so many are refusing it – then donate the extra to less fortunate countries where there is certain to be a shortage.

    14. Ethan says:

      Putting aside a government mandate for the moment, getting the vaccine can (and should) be a condition of employment in the workplace (see below). Maybe we can start there. There needs to be no tolerance for non-compliance when it comes getting the Covid vaccine.

      (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/07/covid-vaccine-update-your-boss-can-fire-you-if-you-refuse-the-coronavirus-shot.html?fbclid=IwAR0Sh69z27kIKZsfkV5CYfxRBTymsMc6ZpXtDHwP6Gx-5vG7SwCon5ufYSM)

    15. ... says:

      What’s the point of putting time and effort into something with no enforcement clause?

      • Frank Grimes says:

        Very simple, these politicians (especially term limited ones)don’t actually care about passing laws that are practical, or even have a chance to be passed. They simply want to focus on issues that will help them get their next job, whether in the public sector, or the private sector. Helen Rosenthal just presented a bill on the homeless that is so absurd, even the agencies for the homeless opposed it. These politicians are not interested in doing what is best for their constituents, they are doing what they can put on their resumes for their future employers to see. Lucky for us, being progressive is cool these days so we get to witness some of the whackiest ideas come out of their mouths, while we on the UWS struggle with basic issues of crime, sanitation and economic downturn.

    16. Spence says:

      I agree with Linda Rosenthal, but laws that cannot be enforced are useless and breed cynicism.

    17. ST says:

      Nope. Fascist. I decide what happens to my body. And am not a denier or anti vax.

      • GG says:

        Well, if your body wants to go on an airplane or into a restaurant or an office building, etc. you are going to need to get the vaccine.

        Just sayin’

        • PastramiBliss says:

          Office buildings are over. It’ll be like the horse and buggy. A reminder of the past that you’ll see every now and then.

          • Stay Alive, Manahatta says:

            Re: “Office buildings are over.”
            Let us hope/wish/pray that they are NOT!:
            1. As the NY Times has noted, office-workers are an essential source of income for near-by restaurants, bodegas, and the struggling-to-survive street-food vendors (many new immigrants);
            2. some office jobs CANNOT be done from home, esp. Wall Street-related, medical, dental, media, etc.
            And there are probably lots of other reasons.

            • PastramiBliss says:

              you can pray all you want to whatever being you believe in. office buildings are over in big cities. imagine you’re a company paying 20k a month in rent for offices. then you saw that your company got along pretty well with all your employees working from home and having zoom meetings. would you go back to the 20k a month rent? nope, you would keep most of your employees working from home, and perhaps rent a conference room once a week (at most), for a company meeting. the future is here. office buildings will convert to condos. also say byebye to wall street, hedge funds are moving to florida and texas.

    18. MAD says:

      How the worm hath turned! Didn’t Kamala Harris and fellow Democrats say they would not trust the “Trump” vaccine and would not take it? And now they are trying to mandate its use. How political can you get?

      • West Ender says:

        I don’t think that’s what they said. If I remember correctly both Biden and Harris said they would take a vaccine that had been FDA approved. But go ahead and politicize it.

        • MAD says:

          And just to clarify, here is Harris’ quote from the debate: “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.” I’d call that political.

          • Fact Checker says:

            This was the actual full quote

            “If Dr. Fauci, the doctors, tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it,” Harris said. “But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I’m not going to take it.”

            • AS says:

              This is all moot because a vaccine would never be allowed to be administered without the proper channels of approvals. So…it is all politics. Just as Cuomo vowed to have a 21 person panel do their own testing before he would allow anyone in NYC to get the vaccine yet he was jumping up and down like a clown the minute he had a vial in hand….idiots and fools all of them because of hatred…

    19. nemo paradise says:

      Maybe we could attach a rider to her bill that mandates puberty-blockers for all children until they can make an informed decision about their gender preference, ban circumcisions (and all other genital mutilation) and set local standards for the sugar/salt content of foods. Also, no more rent until we have achieved herd immunity.

      If we all comee together as one, we can do anything. Whether we should nor not.

    20. B.B. says:

      While she’s obviously been in cahoots with NYS Bar Association for some time on this matter, notice Ms. Rosenthal waited until after elections to spring this on people.

      No surprise NYS Bar Association is onboard with this; more lawsuits means increased work for attorneys. Just think of the billable hours….

    21. Ana says:

      There are many people who responsibly take the reins of our health, cultivating body, mind and spirit with the support of some form of traditional medicine. We make lifestyle choices that respect our body’s natural wisdom to achieve homeostasis. We avoid drugs, including prescription drugs. We are highly sensitive individuals who can have a dangerous reaction to any medication, not to mention a newly designed vaccine with no track record. People who want to be vaccinated to protect themselves should be allowed to do so. And people who want to protect themselves by not being vaccinated should also be respected. Let’s not forget that none of the vaccines being produced can stop the spread of the virus. Only we can do that, individually, by observing the very basic guidelines of social distancing, good hygiene and mask wearing.

    22. MTS says:

      Anyone who suggests we “follow the science” knows zero about the history of science. The conclusions arrived at through science are not unchanging and etched in stone, nor are current scientific conclusions universally agreed upon by professionals in the field.

      The fact is, according to recent polls nearly half of professional healthcare workers in NY state are unwilling to take the covid vaccine, and that is not because they are anti-vaxxers. They simply know better than most that a rushed and unproven novel vaccine is not likely to be safe.

      Despite what the mainstream media might tell you, there are thousands of medical professionals across the world speaking out and warning against taking it.

      Supporting a bill that mandates such a vaccine is beyond wrongheaded.

    23. Steven Barall says:

      More than 35,000 people have died from Covid-19 just right here in New York City. How about just a glimmer of recognition for all of those who have been affected and of course for all of our health care professionals. Do people really think that we should go through all of that again? The doctors know more about this than you do and they say that everyone should take the vaccine. TAKE THE VACCINE!!!

      People think that these vaccines were invented last week. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were formulated back in January and these vaccines have already been tested in tens of thousands of people. Are some people going to have side effects? Of course and I don’t care. Alcohol and cigarettes have massive side effects and no one seems to care about that.

      I agree with Assembly Member Rosenthal that as much attention and discussion must be brought to this issue as possible and I don’t think there’s an elected official in the entire country who has done it better.

      And even though I don’t think NYS will ultimately mandate the vaccine your health insurance carrier might think differently. You better ask your health insurance provider what the ramifications are for refusing medical advice.

    24. John says:

      After the COVID-19 lockdowns get ready for the Global Warming Lockdowns.