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The Supreme Judicial Court has overturned an appeals court judge who blocked the COVID vaccine requirement for Boston’s fire fighters.

The lawsuit challenged Mayor Wu’s December 2021 mandate requiring all city employees to be “fully vaccinated” against the corona virus.

Boston firefighters filed suit in superior court and their lawyers asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction freezing the mandate for the duration of the proceedings.

The superior court judge denied the request and the firefighters appealed. The appeals judge reversed the lower courts decision and ordered the city to freeze the mandate until the case could be decided on it merits.

Although loss of employment, by itself, is insufficient to justify a preliminary injunction, the appeals judge found that there was more at stake in this case:

The single justice recognized that potential termination from employment generally does not satisfy the element of irreparable harm…However, where the plaintiffs alleged that the COVID-19 vaccine involved issues of bodily integrity and self-determination, the single justice held that this case was distinguishable from the more common case where an employee seeks to enjoin termination from employment…Thus, the single justice held that the balance of harms favored the plaintiffs

The SJC rejected this argument, claiming (unconvincingly) that the risk to the public outweighs any individual “issues of bodily integrity and self-determination.”

Dr. Ojikutu [the city’s expert] opined that requiring vaccination against COVID-19 instead of the testing alternative would reduce the likelihood of the spread of COVID-19 to those city residents who need emergency public safety services. In doing so, vaccination against COVID-19 not only protected the health of city residents, but also protected the defendants’ ability to continue to maintain a sufficiently healthy workforce during the Omicron surge, as would be needed to deliver emergency public safety services to the residents of the city. Therefore, where awarding injunctive relief does not promote the public interest, the single justice abused her discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction because the potential harm to the city and the public resulting from the spread of COVID-19 clearly outweighed the economic harm to the employees.

Despite our firsthand-knowledge of the vaccine’s deficiencies, the SJC still contends that “[v]accination against COVID-19…has served as an important tool in achieving higher levels of immunity among the population as the pandemic continues.”

To read the case in its entirety, click the document below: