A week after New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its municipal workforce took effect, the number of city employees getting the shot — including among agencies with higher rates of refusal — continues to climb.
Meanwhile, the vaccination rates are inching higher among children only days after the federal government approved the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine among youngsters aged 5-11.
With more New Yorkers rolling up their sleeves, the spread of COVID-19 continues to drop, even in areas where vaccination rates are far lower than the citywide rates.
NYC vaccine mandate
As of 8 p.m. Saturday night, Nov. 6, 93% of the municipal workforce has received the COVID-19 vaccine, with 18,100 employees still unvaccinated, according to the Mayor’s office. Under the mandate, unvaccinated employees were ordered to go on unpaid sick leave until they get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thousands of workers have applied for exemptions based on religious or medical circumstances, and the city has negotiated agreements with 15 municipal worker unions on a framework to ensure all employees meet the vaccine mandate.
The most vocal opposition to the vaccine mandate has come from unions representing New York City firefighters, but more previously unvaccinated smoke-eaters have elected to get the shot and return to duty. Over the past week, the vaccination rate among FDNY firefighters has gone up from 73% on Oct. 30 to 81% on Nov. 6.
Though there had been staffing shortages that led to FDNY units being temporarily taken off line earlier last week, those shortages were quickly corrected, and the FDNY was back at full service by Friday.
On the flip side, the rate of vaccinations among NYPD employees has seemingly stalled. On Oct. 30, the rate was up to 84%, but that number has gone up just 2% over the past week, to 86% as of Nov. 6.
Meanwhile, the Sanitation Department saw its vaccination rate grow from 79% on Oct. 30 to 86% as of Saturday night.
The Corrections Department continues to have the lowest vaccination rate of any city agency at 63%, but the mandate for the agency was postponed until Dec. 1 because of ongoing efforts to improve conditions on Rikers Island.
Almost 70% fully vaccinated
Close to 70% of the entire population of New York City (8,336,817 people) is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 74% of all residents have received at least the first dose of the inoculation, according to the New York City Health Department.
Twelve New York City neighborhoods have 99% of residents having received at least the first dose, the city reported Sunday. They include Chelsea, Financial District, Tribeca, Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown in Manhattan; and Astoria, Long Island City, Flushing, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst in Queens. Each of these communities have more than 92% of their residents fully vaccinated.
Manhattan and Queens continue to have the strongest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the city, with Manhattan leading all Five Boroughs with 83% with at least one dose and 75% fully vaccinated; and Queens right behind with 80% with at least one dose and 74% fully vaccinated.
Vaccination rates figure to grow further in the days ahead with children ages 5-11 now having the clearance to be vaccinated. The youngsters are also eligible to receive a $100 bonus if they get their shots at a New York City-run vaccination site.
Where’s COVID-19 spreading?
But the vaccination effort continues to lag in 87 communities where less than 74% of residents have received the first dose of the serum. Twelve of these areas have vaccination rates below 60%, and many of them are seeing some of the highest rates of COVID-19 spread in the city.
Seven of the 10 lowest vaccinated areas of the Five Boroughs saw 60 or more new COVID-19 cases between Oct. 27 and Nov. 2. The most were in East Williamsburg/Williamsburg (11211), where 122 people came down with the illness last week, but just 58% of the entire community has received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to date.
The two New York City communities that had 7-day positivity rates above 4% between Oct. 27-Nov. 2 also have poor vaccination rates. Edgemere/Far Rockaway, Queens (11697) had the highest overall rate at 4.26% and 67 new COVID-19 cases, but the area also has the second-lowest rates of fully vaccinated (46%) and first-dose (53%) residents.
Flatlands/Midwood, Brooklyn (11210) had a 7-day positivity rate of 4.07% and 67 new cases between Oct. 27-Nov. 2. The area has the fifth-lowest fully vaccinated (51%) and first-dose (56%) rates.
Yet there was one low-vaxxed neighborhood that saw a significant drop in its 7-day positivity rates over the past week: Borough Park, Brooklyn (11219). While the community of 90,000 continues to have the lowest vaccination rates in the city, it’s 7-day positivity rate dropped from 1.78% on Oct. 20-26 to 0.97% on Oct. 27-Nov. 2.
Meanwhile, transmission rates continue to fall toward lower levels. The citywide transmission rate, as of Oct. 31, was 66.2 cases per 100,000. Staten Island continues to have the highest transmission rate of any borough, at 96.82 cases per 100,000, though that number has also dropped off in recent weeks.