A Covid vaccination mandate for teachers and other staff members took effect in New York City’s sprawling public school system on Monday in a key test of the employee vaccination rules now being rolled out across the country, APA reports citing AP.
The mayor, Bill de Blasio, said 95% of the city’s approximately 148,000 public school staff had received at least one vaccine dose as of Monday morning, including 96% of teachers and 99% of principals.
Some 43,000 employees have received the jab since the mandate was announced on 23 August, De Blasio said.
“Our parents need to know their kids will be safe,” he said. “They entrust us with their children. That’s what this mandate is all about. Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated, and that’s going to be the rule going forward.”
The US secretary of education, Miguel Cardona, joined De Blasio’s virtual briefing and hailed the vaccine mandate.
“You’re doing it right,” Cardona said. “Students need to be in the classroom. They need to be safe and we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to let our staff get vaccinated and make sure that our schools are as safe as possible.”
The mayor had warned that unvaccinated school employees would be placed on unpaid leave and not be allowed to work this week. The city planned to bring in substitutes where needed.
The New York schools chancellor, Meisha Ross Porter, said she did not know exactly how many employees had declined the shots and been put on leave.
Implementing the mandate smoothly will be a test for De Blasio, a Democrat who boasted of the city’s record of keeping school buildings open during most of the last school year when other districts went to all-remote instruction. New York City is not offering a remote option this year.
The vaccination mandate in the nation’s largest school system does not include a test-out option, but does allow for medical and religious exemptions. It was supposed to go into effect last week but was delayed when a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction. An appeals panel reversed that decision three days later.
The 96% teacher vaccination rate cited by the mayor was slightly different from the 97% figure provided earlier on Monday by the head of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew.
New York City’s public school system, which has more than a million students, is one of the first in the nation to require inoculations for all staff members. A similar mandate is set to come into effect in Los Angeles on 15 October.
A group of teachers and other school employees who had sued over New York’s school vaccine mandate asked the US supreme court on Thursday for an emergency injunction blocking its implementation. The request was denied on Friday.
Many students and parents support the vaccine mandate as the best way to keep schools open during the pandemic.
“It’s safer for our kids,” said Joyce Ramirez, 28, who was picking her three children up from a Bronx elementary school last week. She hopes the requirement will lessen the chances of teachers contracting the virus and prompting classroom or school shutdowns.