New York City’s vaccine mandate now covers all municipal workers – and comes with a $500 bonus for those who start their shots between now and October 29 at a city-run site, the city announced Wednesday.
“It’s a mandate now for all city agencies, all city workers. It’s time for everyone to get vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told MSNBC on Wednesday morning.
“Our public employees are going to lead us out of the Covid era.”
Previous efforts to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations didn’t result in enough city employees getting shots, the mayor told CNN.
As of Wednesday, 46,000 New York City employees were still unvaccinated, he said.
“For months and months, (vaccination was) purely voluntarily,” de Blasio told CNN.
“Then we said, get vaccinated or get tested – we tried that for a while. It helped. It didn’t get us far enough. Now we say, here’s a mandate.”
Before de Blasio’s announcement, all New York City public school teachers and other educational staff were required to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
New York City’s health care workers were already required to get vaccinated under the state’s vaccination mandate.
“The mandates work,” de Blasio told CNN, citing vaccination rates of about 96% among the city’s educators and health care workers.
Other city workers either had to be vaccinated or get tested weekly. But now, the testing option will be removed.
“We’re going to work with your union to figure out what happens next,” de Blasio told MSNBC, noting medical and religious accommodations remain in place. “But the bottom line is we’re not going to pay people unless they’re vaccinated.”
Police and firefighter unions push back
However, the mandate faces legal challenges from two key city unions.
The Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which represents about 24,000 police officers, plans to take legal action against the mandate, president Patrick Lynch said.
“From the beginning of the de Blasio administration’s haphazard vaccine rollout, we have fought to make the vaccine available to every member who chooses it, while also protecting their right to make that personal medical decision in consultation with their own doctor,” Lynch said. “Now that the city has moved to unilaterally impose a mandate, we will proceed with legal action to protect our members’ rights.”
The union that represents New York City firefighters announced similar plans Wednesday.
“Putting people out of work for making a personal health choice is something we can never accept,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro announced.
About 60% of uniformed members of the Fire Department of New York had been vaccinated as of Wednesday, FDNY spokesperson Jim Long said.
The New York Police Department’s overall vaccination rate was about 71%, NYPD Det. Annette Shelton said Wednesday.
“Since vaccines became available, we have encouraged our employees, especially those who have contact with the public, to get vaccinated,” Shelton said.
“We continue to make vaccinations available at multiple times and at multiple locations to ensure that as many of our employees as possible get the vaccination.”
Since the pandemic started last year in the US, Covid-19 has killed about five times more police officers nationwide than gunfire has.
De Blasio said Covid-19 has killed too many police officers.
“We got to protect them. This vaccine mandate allows us to do that,” de Blasio said.
Some uniformed corrections officers in New York City won’t be immediately required to be vaccinated.
While civilian employees of the Department of Correction (DOC) and uniformed members assigned to health care settings have a deadline of October 29 to start their vaccination, the deadline for uniformed DOC employees will be December 1 “as the City works diligently to address the ongoing staffing situation at Rikers Island,” the NYC government website said.
$500 for getting 1st shots at a city-run site
Starting Wednesday, city employees who haven’t been vaccinated can get an extra $500 in their paychecks for receiving their first shot at a city-run vaccination site.
That benefit will end at 5 p.m. October 29, when all city workers except some uniformed DOC employees be required to have at least one dose of vaccine.
“Unvaccinated employees will be placed on unpaid leave until they show proof of vaccination to their supervisor,” the city government’s website said.
City workers who were vaccinated before Wednesday will not be eligible for the new $500 bonus, de Blasio told reporters Wednesday.
CNN’s Rob Frehse, Michelle Krupa, Sonia Moghe and Kiely Westhoff contributed to this report.