Vaccination rates for New York’s Bravest are moving upward at a strong clip 10 days after the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate took effect, the Mayor’s office reported Thursday.
The percentage of New York City firefighters who rolled up their sleeves to get at least the first dose of the serum jumped six points in the past week, from 79% on Nov. 3 to 85% on Nov. 10. The Mayor’s office noted the Nov. 10 number represents a seven-point jump since Nov. 1, the date the mandate began, and 27% since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Oct. 19 the requirement for all city employees.
The mandate garnered stiff opposition from various unions representing FDNY’s smoke-eaters including the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which argued that the policy violated the individual freedoms of its members. The Fire Department had to temporarily send a number of units out of service when the mandate started after scores of firefighters called out sick. The worker shortages were eventually resolved days later, and the FDNY is operating at full strength.
Still, New York City firefighters remain one of just five groups of municipal employees whose vaccinate rates are below 90% — but unlike the Bravest, their numbers haven’t budged very much in the past week.
According to the Mayor’s office, 86% of the NYPD’s rank-and-file have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, up just one point from Nov. 3. The Sanitation Department saw just 2% growth in its vaccination rate during the same period, from 85% on Nov. 3 to 87% on Nov. 10.
Employees of the New York City Housing Authority have also been slow to roll up their sleeves. Their vaccination rate grew in a week from 84% on Nov. 3 to 85% on Nov. 10.
Members of the Corrections Department remain at the bottom of the list, with just 63% of its workforce vaccinated. However, the agency was exempt from the mandate on Nov. 1 as it continued its efforts to resolve problems on Rikers Island. All Corrections Department officers have until Dec. 1 to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or like other unvaccinated New York City workers, risk being sent home without pay until they comply.
All told, the Mayor’s office reported, just 15,200 municipal workers are currently unvaccinated, down from the 19,300 recorded on Nov. 3. A number of these workers have filed for medical or religious exemptions and are awaiting rulings on their status.
Meanwhile, the clock is still running on unvaxxed workers from 23 unions with whom the city reached an agreement on vaccinations. The agreements note that any unvaccinated employee who doesn’t comply with the mandate would likely lose their jobs.
Asked by The Chief-Leader Wednesday about this policy and whether something similar would be reached with the firefighter and law enforcement unions, Mayor de Blasio remained optimistic that agreements could be reached to avoid the worst case scenario of noncompliant workers being terminated.
“We still have an open door to unions that want to come in and do that impact bargaining and come to an agreement,” de Blasio said. “We had 23 unions since the October 20th announcement that have come to agreement with us. That’s a striking number representing over a 100,000 employees. My hope is that anybody who still has not – in a union – that still has not come to the table, we can work things out. Let’s see how that goes first, and then we can give you a better answer after that.”