NYC vaccine mandates lead to protests


Kendal Neel, Business Manager

The New York City vaccine mandate requiring all municipal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 officially went into effect on Nov. 1. Almost 9,000 public workers were put on unpaid leave after failing to comply with the new vaccine requirements. The mandate sparked mass outrage among city employees that eventually reached a feverous pitch when thousands of New York City Fire Department (FDNY) members protested against the vaccine in front of the mayoral residence in Downtown Manhattan. 

Despite the spotlight on the FDNY protest, members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) have also expressed anger over the vaccination requirements. The police department filed a formal lawsuit against the mayor’s office in an attempt to temporarily exclude police officers from the mandate. 

Although the request for exemption was denied, police officers and firefighters alike continue to push back under the belief that COVID-19 poses no real threat to law enforcement members who worked throughout the pandemic. 

Many University students feel especially passionate about this issue due to the campus’ close proximity to the mayoral residence where the protest took place. University senior and native New York resident Vinny Folmer said, “It’s really frustrating that protests like this are still happening. The vaccine shouldn’t be a political issue, it’s about safety for everyone and I’m not sure why so many people aren’t understanding that.” 

Members of the NYPD believe that the current rate of vaccination combined with the immunity of officers who have previously contracted COVID-19 is enough to protect them from an outbreak moving forward. However, statistics have also shown that COVID-19 was the leading cause of death among law enforcement officers over the last year. 

University senior Yianni Nicolaides added, “Their job is to protect and serve and yet they’re putting others at risk by allowing themselves to be susceptible to a preventable virus that we’re fortunate enough to have three safe vaccines for.”  

Since the mandate was announced and went into effect, roughly 91 percent of city workers have received one vaccine shot. As municipal employees continue to protest and push back against requirements, the FDNY is facing significant staffing shortages and reports that 18 fire companies were out of service following the mandate’s implementation. In addition, nearly 2,300 firefighters called out sick on Nov. 1 in response to the mandate. 

Although this shortage may seem concerning, members of the city government have stressed that they are prepared for any challenges thrown their way. The mayoral office announced that the city has many safeguards in place to ensure that NYC residents remain safe and protected. This includes using overtime and even eliminating vacation time should the shortages warrant drastic safety risks. 

While the FDNY protest in Downtown Manhattan remained relatively peaceful, violence has erupted in other parts of the city as anti-vaxxers clash with police officers and other community members who support the vaccine mandate. In Staten Island, tensions rose between anti-vaccination protestors and law enforcement that eventually resulted in two arrests. 

While the FDNY and the NYPD remain at the center of the city-wide protests, other community groups feel strongly about the mandate as well. Some New York residents have begun to complain about the growing presence of trash around the city as 17 percent of sanitation workers still refuse to be vaccinated following the mandate.  

The argument over vaccination mandates has also reached the education system as many teachers feel their right to choose what goes into their body is being taken away. The latest requirements have reignited protests that began in September after a COVID vaccine mandate went into effect for teachers that did not provide a regular testing option. 

In response to the protests within the educational sector, University senior Kiara Ronaghan said, “School should be the safest place for kids. They should not have to worry about the possibility of bringing home the virus from a teacher or faculty member who refuses to be vaccinated.” As of Oct. 4, 2021, roughly 95 percent of NYC educators have been vaccinated against the virus, and the mayoral office hopes to see that percentage grow in the coming months. 

As NYC enters the Winter holiday season once again, with the Coronavirus still at large, it’s clear that the debate over vaccine mandates will continue to rage on. From staffing shortages to protests and everything in between, the city is in for another rocky year with no end to the tension in sight.