New York Attorney General Letitia James urged the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to deny a request from a group of New York healthcare workers for an injunction against the state’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare employees.

Three healthcare workers and a group called We the Patriots USA Inc. sued the state in the Eastern Court of New York in September, protesting that although the state’s emergency rule requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for certain healthcare workers allows exemptions for those with medical issues, there is no exemption for people with religious objections. 

The case made its way to the Supreme Court on Nov. 1. The attorney general responded Wednesday that the vaccine is necessary to counter the “vicious cycle of staff shortages and deterioration of patient care,” according to court records

James refuted claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is immoral, eschewing the plaintiff’s objection that the vaccines were developed from fetal cell lines. James said the HEK-293 cells used in research currently are grown in a laboratory setting and “are thousands of generations removed from cells collected from a fetus in 1973.” She cited church leaders’ statements that the vaccine is morally permissible.

“Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church (a church with which two of the three plaintiffs are affiliated), has recognized that taking an approved COVID-19 vaccine is ‘an act of love’ and “a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable,” James wrote to the Court.

The case is not unlike a case in Maine, where the Supreme Court last month rejected an emergency appeal from healthcare workers in Maine to block a vaccine on religious grounds.