Mandatory Vaccination Coming for New York City School Workers

Photo: (Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York City, America's largest school district, has announced a mandatory vaccination policy for all public school teachers and staff. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all employees of the city's Department of Education need to at least have one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine before September 27.

In July, De Blasio required all public school workers to either get vaccinated or have weekly testings as part of their employment condition. However, the mayor has revised this policy amid the Delta variant surge by enforcing mandatory vaccination and ending the weekly COVID-19 tests. However, the new mandate didn't detail if school workers who refuse to get vaccinated will get to keep their jobs.

De Blasio said in a press conference that they need to get more people vaccinated because schools in New York will begin on September 13. 

"We've got to make sure our schools are safe and healthy, in particular for our kids," the mayor said.

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More Mandatory Vaccinations in Schools

The order for mandatory vaccination will apply for at least 400,000 school workers, including the city government employees and the New York Police and Fire Departments. De Blasio also required vaccinations for students and staff involved in contact sports like football, basketball, wrestling, rugby, volleyball, and bowling.

The city, however, isn't the first to impose mandatory vaccination for public school workers. In early August, Long Beach Unified School District in California announced that school teachers and staff must be vaccinated before the opening of classes. All Chicago Public School system employees have also been ordered to get two jabs before October 15, except if they have religious or medical exemptions.

On the other hand, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington imposed a state-wide mandatory vaccination policy for all teachers and school staff, regardless if they work in a public or private school. Inslee also said that every employee working in state agencies should be vaccinated. He has placed the deadline for two jabs by October 18, or the workers will risk getting fired.

No Consultation or Bargaining

However, some school workers in New York who are members of the union have expressed concern that De Blasio's orders didn't undergo a bargaining or consultation process. Robert Troeller of the custodian's union said that they have some members who are "dead-set against" the jab, but he believes over 60 percent of the custodians in the city have been vaccinated.

Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers said that while a majority of NYC school teachers have had their vaccinations, some "implementation details" for individuals with medical exceptions have to be negotiated and resolved during arbitrations. Mulgrew, however, emphasized that everyone's first priority is always the safety of the students.

The public expects that more mandatory vaccination orders will come from various local governments as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the first full approval for a COVID-19 vaccine for Pfizer for those above 16 years old. The rest of the vaccines are still under emergency use authorization.

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