NEW YORK — New York City’s controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all city employees went into effect on Monday, and if the rise in vaccination rates is any indication, it appears that the mandate has worked.
According to city figures, there have been dramatic increases in the percentages of vaccination in some vital agencies since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate on October 20th.
In that time, his office reported, vaccination rates for members of the EMS force of the FDNY have gone from 61% to 88%.
Among firefighters in the FDNY, the rate has gone from 58% to 77%.
In the NYPD, a 70% rate on October 20 has increased to 85% now.
The Department of Sanitation has gone from 62% to 83%.
Overall numbers, according to the city, show that out of a city workforce of 378,000, about 9,000 workers have not gotten vaccinated. They’ve been put on unpaid leave, according to a spokesperson from the mayor’s office.
About another 10,000 remained unvaccinated, but were being considered for medical exemptions that would allow them to work and get tested weekly.
The mayor said on Monday that 91% of the city’s total municipal workforce had gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. That number rose from about 83% on Friday night. Among all city workers, vaccination rates increased by 14% over the span of 10 days, according to the mayor’s office.
Despite repeated warnings from some unions about slowdowns in service, the mayor insisted the city is safe and that response times for 911 calls will not be impacted.
“NYPD, functioning fully normally, FDNY, normally,” the mayor said, despite some lower numbers due to the unpaid leaves of absence his mandate had prompted.
“Remember, in the worst of COVID last year,” he continued, “you had 20 percent of the workforce out with COVID.”
Members of the firefighters union spoke out Monday and said they were not anti-vaccine, but rather, anti-mandate.
The union called the mandate deadline “unconscionable,” arguing that there should have been more time allotted for them to get vaccinated.
“He gave us nine days to implement a mandate. It wasn’t enough time to negotiate, it wasn’t time enough to hand in a reasonable accommodation, or an exemption,” Uniformed Fire Officers of NYC President James McCarthy said.
In the past week, 2,300 members of the FDNY have been out on medical leave, according to the department.
Over half of those on sick leave are unvaccinated, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
He said that firefighters had had plenty of time to get decide on a vaccination, and that the time to do so is now.
“Back in December of last year we fought very hard to get to the front of the line, as we should be, and offer the vaccine,” Nigro said, at the mayor’s daily press briefing.
“We opened our own sites to vaccinate people,” Nigro said. “So for more than 10 months, every member of this department has had every opportunity to be vaccinated, as they should’ve been, so this nine day issue is somewhat incorrect.”