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Top NY judge says she'll comply with vaccine mandate

Judge Jenny Rivera said this week that she is now ready to receive the recently authorized Novavax vaccine once it's publicly available.
Credit: AP
FILE - Court of Appeals judge Jenny Rivera listens to oral arguments during a cross-examination at the Court of Appeals on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. Rivera, one of seven jurists on New York's highest court, is no longer allowed in the courtroom and has been referred to a disciplinary committee, because she hasn't complied with a rule requiring all court personnel to provide proof they've been vaccinated against COVID-19. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

ALBANY, N.Y. — A judge on New York's highest court has reversed her refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine months after not complying with a vaccination mandate.

Judge Jenny Rivera, one of seven jurists on the state's Court of Appeals, said this week that she is now ready to receive the recently authorized Novavax vaccine once it's publicly available.

Rivera said in a statement Tuesday that she had declined to get vaccinated because of concerns about her personal health.

"My doctors have confirmed that the recently approved Novavax COVID-19 vaccine does not present any health-related risks to me, and I am ready and eager to receive this vaccine as soon as it is publicly available," said Rivera, who was appointed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.

New York's court system has barred Rivera from court facilities for refusing to comply with its requirement for all employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. She has worked remotely since October.

Rivera is one of four judges statewide who have been referred to the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct for failing to show proof of vaccination. Judges in New York can only be removed by the commission, which has never sanctioned or removed a Court of Appeals judge.

Rivera's announcement comes as the state's highest court faces the departure of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore at the end of August.

The court system is expected to announce an acting chief judge to temporarily replace DiFiore.

Novavax is a more traditional kind of vaccine. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots train the body to fight the coronavirus by recognizing its outer coating, the spike protein, and essentially turning people's cells into a temporary vaccine factory.

Novavax works by injecting copies of a spike protein that are grown in a lab and packaged into nanoparticles that to the immune system resemble a virus. Protein vaccines have been used for years to prevent other diseases including hepatitis B and shingles.

Health officials hope the Novavax vaccine will appeal to people who have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on a different technology.

Vaccinations are expected to begin in the next few weeks.

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