Police union sues Allegheny County over vaccine mandate

Last week, the Allegheny County Police Association (ACPA), the union representing Allegheny County’s police force, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas asking for an immediate injunction of the vaccine mandate instated by the county for its employees last month. Out of its 203 members, 47 are not vaccinated (roughly 23 percent).

The mandate called for proof of vaccination of all county employees by Dec. 1, and those who remain unvaccinated face losing their jobs. The complaint, an extension of a Sept. 30 charge of unfair labor practices, challenged the vaccine mandate primarily on the grounds of constitutional liberties and the effectiveness and safety of available vaccines. According to the filing, it infringes on members’ “bodily autonomy with no public health justification.”

In a recent 90.5 WESA article, however, medical experts weighed in on the complaint and found that it was “full of false statements and gross misinterpretations of data.”

The ACPA’s complaint questioned the necessity of the vaccine as well as its effectiveness. The filing argued that those who have recovered from the virus had greater immunity than those who had received the vaccine, citing a recent study from Israel. However, the paper is still being peer-reviewed, and concrete evidence for the greater protection given by natural immunity is still pending.

The filing went into detail about each of the three vaccines currently offered, suggesting that they were either not ready for distribution, dangerous, or otherwise unethical or ineffective, at times perpetuating myths that have since been debunked. In one section, it claimed the “viral vector that forms the backbone of the J&J vaccine is grown in a continuous (“immortalized”) human embryonic cell line derived from the abortion of a healthy 18-week-old fetus,” citing a Religion News Service article from March 2021. It claimed that not only was the vaccine unnecessary and unsafe, but that it was also unethical.

Earlier this year, there was a wave of misinformation about the vaccines including claims that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine includes aborted fetal cells. “It is true that decades ago scientists decided to use fetal tissue to start the cell lines we use to test drugs today,” infectious disease expert James Lawler writes. “However, the description of ongoing modern fetal tissue harvesting to create vaccines is dishonest sensationalism.” No fetal cells have been collected for use in vaccines since the 1960s. Instead, Johnson & Johnson uses reproductions of the original cells from said cell lines, which allow the original cells to reproduce indefinitely by mitosis, negating any need to harvest new cells.

A judge will hear arguments for the case in late November.

“According to the CDC, COVID-19 overall has a 99.74% survival rate,” the ACPA wrote as part of their argument against the necessity of the vaccine. “Among young people, that number is even higher. For people aged 18 to 29, the survival rate is 99.97%.”

As of Oct. 23, 30,903 Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19.