Friday, October 16, 2009

coercive flu vaccination?

NYTimes | The New York Civil Liberties Union demanded on Tuesday that the state health commissioner withdraw a new regulation requiring hundreds of thousands of health care workers to get both seasonal and swine flu vaccinations.

In testimony before several State Assembly committees in Lower Manhattan, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the civil liberties union, said that the requirement violated the constitutional right of health care workers to control their bodies and their medical treatment.

Ms. Lieberman said that, while the civil liberties union supported voluntary flu vaccination, the “societal interest” being advanced by compulsory vaccination was dubious, since the state regulation conflicted with both international and national policy on the vaccination of health care workers.

Neither the World Health Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for mandatory vaccination, she pointed out.

Ms. Lieberman stopped short of saying that the civil liberties union would sue over the requirement, which was adopted by the state’s Health Department as an emergency regulation in August. State health officials said Tuesday that the regulation affected 500,000 health care workers and volunteers statewide.

Her testimony came a day before a judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan was to hear a lawsuit filed by a nurse in Poughkeepsie, Suzanne Field, seeking to overturn the regulation.

In her lawsuit, filed a week ago, Ms. Field argues that the regulation is arbitrary and capricious because no other state is ordering mandatory vaccination despite concern about the H1N1 pandemic.

“It’s up to the Legislature to invoke such broad and sweeping police power,” Ms. Field’s lawyer, Patricia Finn, said Tuesday.