NYC’s termination of unvaccinated workers is justified


Metropolitan Transportation Authority | Flickr

Razia Islam, Science & Technology Editor

Vaccine mandates are not unheard of, yet the recent termination of unvaccinated municipal workers in New York City has caused an uproar. Although the city’s vaccine mandate led to mass termination, this procedure is a necessary step toward combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 4,000 unvaccinated city workers were sent notices regarding the vaccine mandate in late January. Around 3,000 of those workers had already been on unpaid leave for months after missing the original vaccination deadline in November 2021.

Municipal workers were expected to show proof of getting at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to continue working or they would be fired.

On Feb. 7, over 300 city workers protested the city’s vaccine mandate in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Fortunately, this protest was disregarded and the city’s vaccine mandate was followed through.

On Feb. 11, 1,430 unvaccinated municipal workers in New York City were terminated for failing to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate, representing less than 1% of the city’s workforce.

This termination is the nation’s largest mass termination due to a vaccine mandate.

Despite the severity of the situation, New Yorkers should not see a disruption in city services as the terminated workers had been on unpaid leave for more than three months.

Municipal workers were given several notices regarding the vaccine mandate and the city has been quite lenient with the last vaccine mandate deadline in November 2021.

“Our goal was always to vaccinate, not terminate,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. “Those terminated have made their choice to be let go willingly, responsibility falling on no one else but themselves.”

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, states are allowed to implement vaccine mandates. Thus, there are no issues with the legality of this mass termination.

This strict mandate should have occurred months ago, during one of the peaks of the pandemic.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccine helps lower one’s own risk of contracting the virus as well as helps lower the spread of the virus to those susceptible. Those vaccinated will also experience less severe symptoms of the virus if they happen to contract it.

Vaccine mandates are essential to a greatly populated city like New York City and can even influence other cities to follow suit.

“Vaccine mandates are contagious,” Adams said. “Many other cities and states adopted employee mandates after New York City, because if you can make it happen here, you can make it happen everywhere.”

Vaccine mandates are the push needed “to reach groups who aren’t completely against the vaccine,” according to medical experts.

Of the 1,430 terminated workers, the largest termination rate came from the Department of Education with 914 employees fired. This striking rate is necessary to ensure the well-being of students across the city.

Currently, only 54.7% of children aged five to 17 in the city have been fully vaccinated, leaving a vast number of students at risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, children are not yet able to receive booster shots in New York City.

School workers have a responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of their students. This responsibility includes getting vaccinated to lower the risk for children who are unable to get vaccinated due to circumstances beyond their control.

The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to the rise of more utilitarian principles being utilized in government sectors and the workforce. Vaccine mandates may upset a small minority of people, but they are only set for the greater good.

“Workers should not get fired,” Harry Nespoli, the president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and the head of the Municipal Labor Council, said. “There are a lot of people who don’t believe in putting this stuff in their bodies.”

However, a vaccine mandate is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of concrete science and is the humane way to go about tackling a virus.

No one should fear risking their health when attending work or school, especially when the city has the means to ensure safety to all its devoted workers through a vaccine mandate.