Is mandatory vaccination for sporting events legal?

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ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Bills and Sabres fans will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend games, after Erie County officials adopted the requirement ahead of the fall season.

The decision is being questioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who says the state would have to sign off on any mandate. When asking a local lawyer about the mandate, he explained governments can enforce health mandates only if they are proven to be necessary to protect public health.

Some local Bills fans see mandatory vaccination to attend games as a way to get back to normal.

“I think that’s just the safest possible for everyone so that we’re all keeping safe keeping healthy and just staying on top of it,” Bills fan Sydney Cates said.

“If people are vaccinated and need to be vaccinated to be there at least then you feel the safeness of like ‘okay I could have a little more fun be a little less concerned about who is so close to me’ that type of stuff,” said Hannah Moore, Canisius College student.

But when asked about a mandatory vaccine for private business, the answers changed, most believing vaccination should be a choice.

“To each their own I guess every business has the right to do what they want and for the Bills, it’s all about safety,” said Jeff Weaver, a Bills fan.

“That’s a little tougher of a situation. I feel like that should be up to the business owner. Private business owners they should have the right to say whether or not they want to,” said Calvin Nguyen, who got both vaccine shots.

Th question of whether governments and private businesses can mandate vaccination is not new. In fact, in the 1905 case Jacobson versus Massachusetts, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of state mandatory vaccinations after Jacobson refused a smallpox vaccine.

Attorney Michael Burger broke down the history of the case and says it all came down to science.

“There is a police power that the government has and they can exercise in order to promote the general welfare but that presumes that the science justifies it,” said Mike Burger, lawyer Santigo Burger LLP.

“The million-dollar question here is do these vaccines promote the general welfare and I don’t have that answer for you,” said Burger.

That same 1905 case is being used today in the arguments for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

When it comes to the Bills and Sabers games, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has said the vaccine mandate is to ensure the safety of all fans. But Gov. Cuomo has questioned the legality of such a move.

“I just think it’s early to make a decision months ahead, legally the state would have to sign off on it, practically we tend to do it as a collaborative,” the governor said in a conference call with the media.

For now the questions of mandatory vaccination is being left up to local governments, as the Biden administration has said no to mandates on a federal level.

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