New York City on Sunday set a new law that mandates vaccinations for all private-sector employees, including large employers like Walmart and McDonald’s that hire dozens of workers.
The City Council, in a vote of 41-9, passed the law, which it approved in October in a break from its usual legislative process. The Council is currently mulling the decriminalization of carrying a firearm; in a separate vote on Sunday, it approved a measure that would essentially decriminalize marijuana possession.
The law will require large employers with more than 50 workers to provide employees with the two most popular childhood vaccines, whooping cough and chickenpox, as well as pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella — all required under state law and the city’s medical director of health. The vaccinations are not mandatory for employees employed by New York’s public schools, and it will not affect public employees.
The state law that governs vaccinations in the private sector is similar to New York City’s proposal. The city’s local law, which will take effect at the end of 2018, will not require exemptions from vaccinations for religious reasons, leaving some room for school officials, parents and employees to opt out of vaccinations for those reasons.
Opponents of the law argued that it intruded upon the private lives of women who may not want to be vaccinated for certain diseases, and said parents do not necessarily oppose vaccinations, they just want to be able to protect their children from having them.
The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, has said the law is no different than the immunization requirements in New York State for school children, and that it is in the public’s interest to protect their health.
The provision that the laws require vaccination coverage for preschool and day care teachers was prompted by concerns that the measles outbreak at a California preschool was transmitted by a mother not vaccinating her child. The state law covering teacher immunization requirements is much more restrictive. It bars individuals from hiring adults who have not been vaccinated against the measles, mumps and rubella and requires that all teachers pass a state exam proving that they have the vaccinations.
The Council voted on the immunization proposal earlier this month, approving a plan crafted by the mayor’s office and the city’s health department. The legislation had languished for months.
On Monday, the mayor’s office had not responded to requests for comment.
At the time of the bill’s approval, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the legislation would be the “most comprehensive of its kind in the country.”