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Save Rochester Voices Concern Over Potential Vaccine Mandate

Patti Singer

Save Rochester — Black Lives Matter organizer Mikey Johnson, left, Antonia Wynter and City Council member Jose Peo spoke Dec. 30, 2020 against making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

As COVID-19 vaccination extends to more health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and workers on the front line of the pandemic, some people are concerned that the injections may become mandatory as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“Under no condition do we believe that the vaccine should be mandated or coerced on the American public,” said Mikey Johnson of Save Rochester – Black Lives Matter, organizer of a rally at noon, Jan. 1 at the Liberty Pole against the possibility that the vaccine will be required for work, school or travel.

“This is not a color issue,” Johnson said at a news conference Dec. 30 outside the Monroe County Office Building. “This is an education issue. People are not being informed on their rights and not being made aware of current legislation that is being proposed to mandate these vaccines.”

Johnson and City Council member Jose Peo said the rally is not against the vaccine but the issue is whether it will be mandatory.

Participants int he Jan. 1 rally against the prospect of mandatory COVID-19 vaccine gather at the Monroe County Office Building. Provided by Jose Peo.

About 100 people attended the rally, according to Peo, which included a stop at the Monroe County Office Building.

Two COVID-19 vaccines have started to be distributed according to strict federal and state protocols. Vaccines are not expected to be available to the general public at least until spring. Both vaccines – one from Pfizer/BioNTech and the other from Moderna – are allowed by the Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization. Local health officials have said that vaccines under emergency use designation cannot be mandated.

However, a Democratic state legislator introduced a bill stating that if not enough residents are developing immunity, the state health department could require vaccination of people for whom clinical data shows it would be safe. The bill has yet to have a co-sponsor.

The New York state Bar Association has recommended the state consider requiring the vaccine “once a scientific consensus emerges that it is safe, effective and necessary. The bar association said that before taking “this significant step,” the state should run an awareness campaign to urge voluntary vaccination.

The bar association said “it would be up to public health authorities to decide if a vaccine mandate is necessary, and whether it should apply to all residents or to a smaller population such as health care workers or students.”

The Society of Human Resource Managers offered employers some things to consider if they want to mandate the vaccine.

Peo said the decision to get the vaccine should be up to the individual.

“We deserve the opportunity to say what does and does not go into our bodies,” he said at the news conference. “We deserve the opportunity to wait it out and see if the possible long-term effects of the vaccine are worse than the virus itself.”

Peo said there are many people “who should absolutely embrace the vaccine — those who are elderly, have co-morbidities, or have underlying health issues should absolutely take the

He said there are many younger, healthier people – and he included himself – who want to avoid illness by exercising, taking vitamins and changing their lifestyle. “We have the right to choose for ourselves whether it’s worth it or not to get the vaccine.”