Some 11,000 members of the NYPD wound up infected with COVID-19, but the department-wide vaccination rate is under 50% — and far below the citywide averages.
The NYPD reported Wednesday that it administered the COVID-19 vaccine to 43% of its uniformed and civilian personnel. The figure does not include any employees who may have received the serum independent of the NYPD’s internal efforts.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the NYPD’s vaccination campaign, but indicated that changes may be coming to get more police officers protected against the virus. That could mean a mandate similar to the one the city imposed this week for all health care workers, but the mayor did not go into specifics.
“The NYPD put together an amazing vaccination effort, and I commend them for that. Now, I’d say that everyone’s got to do better,” de Blasio said during his July 22 daily press briefing. “We’ve got to go farther. We’re going to look at a variety of ways to do that.”
New York’s Finest was particularly ravaged during the peak of the pandemic in March and April 2020. At one point, nearly a fifth of its force wound up calling out sick. The department lost one of its highest ranking members, Chief of Transportation William Morris, to COVID-19, along with a host of other officers, school safety agents, traffic agents and civilian staff members.
Yet the NYPD’s low vaccination rate seems to reflect a great deal of vaccine hesitancy within the ranks — something which the department is working hard to shatter.
“Since vaccines became available, we have encouraged our employees, especially those who have contact with the public, to get vaccinated,” the NYPD said in a statement. “We have made vaccinations available at multiple times and at multiple locations to ensure that as many of our employees as possible get the vaccination.”
The NYPD has also produced several informational videos urging its employees to get the life-saving shot. A new round of videos is being produced to directly address “rumors, misinformation and concerns with vaccination.”
Thus far, the NYPD noted that it’s chosen the carrot over the stick when it comes to vaccinations, encouraging their employees to get the shot rather than threaten punishment. By contrast, on Wednesday, de Blasio ordered all city health care workers vaccinated, or be subject to frequent COVID-19 testing and/or suspension without pay.
“While we have stopped short of compelling uniformed officers to be vaccinated by rule — which would likely face lengthy legal challenges — we have focused our efforts on strong education and encouragement,” the NYPD added.
On top of that, the Patrol Benevolent Association (PBA), the largest police union in the city, has also actively encouraged its members to get vaccinated. Not long after the vaccine was first made available to essential health care workers in December 2020, the PBA successfully advocated with the city to have police officers included among the first round of priority vaccinations.
Through a spokesperson, the PBA also indicated opposition to any potential vaccine mandate: “In the union’s view, vaccination is a personal medical decision that each member should make in consultation with his or her own doctor.”