New York City enforces vaccine mandate for DOE employees


Beyond My Ken | Wikimedia Commons

Rachel Dalloo

Starting on Sept. 27, all New York City Department of Education employees will be required to provide proof of at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.

“Keeping our students and staff healthy is our top priority,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press release. “To keep our schools healthy and safe, we are now requiring all Department of Education staff to have at least one dose of the vaccine by September 27. Together, we will create a safe and welcoming school experience for our kids.”

Education department workers in NYC are among the “first group of municipal employees” that will be facing a full vaccine mandate in order to return to in-person teaching, according to the New York Times. This mandate affects over 1448,000 school staff members.

City officials have stated that “more than 63 percent of the education department’s employees are vaccinated,” but this percentage does not reflect the numbers of those who have received their vaccination outside of NYC. Additionally, approximately “75 percent of the teachers who live in the city have received at least one dose and 43 percent of Police Department employees have been vaccinated,” according to the New York Times.

“As a parent, I put the health and safety of my children first, always. Parents can be assured this fall that their school communities and the phenomenal school staff our children interact with every day are protected by safe, effective vaccines,” NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter said. “This is another layer to our multi-layered health and safety strategy and an important step in keeping our school communities safe.”

There have been mixed reactions from educators, public employees and education unions in response to the city’s new mandate. Unions like DC37, NYC’s largest public union, stated that de Blasio does not have the “legal authority to change the terms and conditions of employment without bargaining,” and went on to state that the union, along with several others, would be filing an “unfair labor practices complaint,” as stated by Spectrum News NY1.

De Blasio has stated that he is starting to work “immediately” with unions to fully address the new vaccination mandate.

“Our first priority is keeping our kids safe, and the schools open,” Michael Mulgrew, who is the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. “The city’s teachers have led the way on this issue, with the great majority already vaccinated. While the city is asserting its legal authority to establish this mandate, there are many implementation details, including provisions for medical exceptions, that by law must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary, resolved by arbitration.”

Following the Food & Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, any student who plans to attend in-person classes on any CUNY or SUNY campus will also need to get vaccinated and show proof of vaccination.

CUNY students were given a 45-day notice to upload their proof of vaccination to the CUNYFirst system and Sept. 27 was the final day to upload documentation for approval.