VACCINE MANDATE: Firefighters and cops still lag behind, but 91% of city workforce now has the shot

Union firefighters and others protest against mandated vaccines in New York City
Some very “angry” and “upset” firefighters protested the COVID-19 vaccine mandate outside Gracie Mansion on Oct. 28, 2021. The FDNY firefighters now have the third-lowest vaccination rate of all city agencies.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

With less than 24 hours remaining, New York City’s firefighters remained near the bottom of the barrel in complying with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate taking effect on Monday, Nov. 1.

In all, more than 2,000 NYC employees rolled up their sleeves Saturday as the clock ticked down to the first day of mandate enforcement, with 91% of the total workforce now vaccinated against COVID-19. But based on the percentages, it seemed few firefighters and police officers were among those who finally got the shot this weekend.

The latest COVID-19 vaccination rates by city agency, issued Sunday afternoon with data compiled as of 8 p.m. Oct. 30, had just 73% of FDNY firefighters having received at least the first dose of the life-saving shot, according to statistics that the Mayor’s office released Saturday afternoon.

That’s up just 1% from Oct. 29. The mandate has been least popular among vaccine-refusing firefighters, many of whom joined with other mandate opponents for a protest outside Gracie Mansion Thursday.

Still, only the Corrections Department (60%) have lower vaccination rates (the Corrections Department vaccination mandate was pushed back until December while the agency works to correct conditions on Rikers Island).

Meanwhile, 84% of the FDNY’s EMS service members are now vaccinated.

The NYPD has made similar progress in getting its rank-and-file vaccinated in recent days, getting closer to the 90% mark. The city reported Saturday that 84% of the entire department, including civilians and officers, but that number held flat over the previous 24 hours. 

By far, some of the biggest progress came within the Sanitation Department, which had been close to dead last in the vaccination effort. As of 8 p.m. Oct. 30, 79% of the entire agency had received at least the first dose, the city reported Sunday; just 62% of the department’s personnel had been vaccinated as of Oct. 19.

Employees with the New York City Housing Authority also came out in droves to get vaccinated Saturday, raising their totals from 66% on Oct. 29 to 74% on Oct. 30.

Some 24,200 unvaccinated municipal employees are at risk of being sent home without pay come Monday morning if they have not provided proof that they received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Their unpaid leave of absence will remain in effect until they comply with the mandate.

Any municipal employee vaccinated between now and Monday will be able to work, but they have lost out on the $500 bonus that the city offered to all its unvaccinated workers to get the shot before 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29.

Approximately 32 city agencies now have vaccination rates of 90% or higher, including the Department of Education and NYC Health + Hospitals (which mandated vaccinations in September), as well as the Departments of City Planning, Housing Preservation and Development, Emergency Management, Aging, Design and Construction, Investigation, and Buildings.

Fears of worker shortages at various agencies as a result of noncompliant employees being sent home have arisen in recent days, but Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that the city would be able to manage any shortfall