Get the Shot or Get Canned: City Workers Face New Vaccine Deadline

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City employees are facing their final deadline to get vaxxed or get out. 

Municipal workers must get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Feb. 11 or be fired — a stronger requirement than the city’s mandate last year, which put staffers who didn’t get the shot on unpaid leave.

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The deadline applies to the 1,000-some new employees hired after Aug. 2 who haven’t yet submitted proof that they received a second dose of a two-dose vaccine series and the less than 3,000 unvaccinated employees currently on unpaid leave who elected not to keep their health benefits, according to the city. 

“My number one job is to keep this city safe — that includes getting New York City vaccinated. City workers are leaders and have led the way on vaccinations,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “More than 90 percent of employees are fully vaccinated and that number is increasing every day.” 

About 95 percent of the entire city workforce was vaccinated as of Jan. 26, according to data from the mayor’s office. The New York City Department of Corrections and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) are tied for having the lowest vaccination numbers of any city department, both at 88 percent.

The NYPD’s largest union, the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York (PBA), first announced the news of the vaccination deadline in a memo to its members, saying that the organization had exhausted its efforts to challenge the requirement in the court system, NBC reported.

“It has come to our attention that the mayor has decided to move forward with terminating employees who have failed to get vaccinated,” PBA President Vincent Vallelong wrote in his memo, according to NBC. “Every avenue has been exhausted by law enforcement and others across the country in the courts, we have lost at every turn. … With this in mind, I ask you to take the proper steps to ensure that whatever decision you make is best for you and your families.”

The PBA — a union representing more than 20,000 NYPD officers — sued the city over the mandate in October 2021, arguing that the vaccine mandate was too broad, unnecessary, did not provide enough exemptions and was in violation of state law, Commercial Observer reported at the time. But a Staten Island judge denied the organization’s request to pause the mandate. 

The case is still ongoing, and the judge most recently denied the PBA’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the mandate in December 2021, according to court records. The PBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

That lawsuit was over a previous version of the mandate, when then-Mayor Bill de Blasio required all city employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 29, without the option to get tested each week for COVID-19, or be put on unpaid leave. Department of Corrections workers had a later deadline of Dec. 1, thanks to conditions at Rikers Island becoming so poor that the city struggled to staff the jail complex.

Out of all New York City residents, more than 84 percent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75 percent are fully vaccinated, but did not necessarily get a booster dose, according to the city.

Update: This story has been updated to include information from the mayor’s office.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.