NEW YORK — With only about 59% of the FDNY and 69% of the NYPD vaccinated, thousands of first responders could be sidelined by the end of the month under a new city worker vaccine mandate.
The Uniformed Firefighters Association reports 3,500 firefighters are unvaccinated; union officials believe many will comply with the new order from Mayor Bill de Blasio, which requires them to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave.
“I have told my members that if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must report to work,” said UFA President Andrew Andsbro. “If they are told they cannot work, it will be up to the Department and the City of New York to send them home, and it’ll be the Department and the City of New York that has failed to protect the City of New York.”
Andsbro said legal action is being planned and the Police Benevolent Association, which represents most sworn NYPD officers, is threatening legal action as well.
Mayor de Blasio was dismissive of the possibility of a public safety crisis due to his orders but did not provide detail as to his backup plans.
“We obviously have contingencies in place for any gaps we experience,” he said. “But our uniformed leadership feel very strongly they will be able to handle any scenario.”
De Blasio also expressed confidence that first responders would want to protect their paychecks and pensions. He pointed to some initial hesitancy among school staff and city health workers. An earlier mandate has now boosted vaccination rates among those city workers to above 95%.
UFA spokesmen said they doubted their members would change their minds and roll up their sleeves as easily as other employees. They believe some level of herd immunity has been achieved within the FDNY, due to a high percentage of firefighters and paramedics having been diagnosed at one point with COVID-19.
The CDC still recommended the vaccine for those who have been previously diagnosed with COVID, citing research that shows it provides longer-lasting immunity than exposure to COVID itself.