Yesterday marked the day the mandate for New York City school employees to either be vaccinated for COVID or face leave without pay went into effect. NYC mayor, Bill DeBlasio, celebrated that 96 percent of New York’s Department of Education employees are vaccinated, yet that leaves approximately 8,000 of the 148,000 unvaccinated. Several schools hit the 100 percent vaccination mark, but hold outs remained. In one Staten Island School, 20 teachers remain unvaccinated and concerns loom for the schools who serve special needs students facing shortages as a result of the mandates.1
Teachers aren’t the only shortages. With over 700 school safety agents remaining unvaccinated, the shortage of 1,500 at the beginning of the year has been compounded. Custodial and other positions were concerns as well.1
Unlike other mandates, there is no option for the teachers to choose to test instead of receiving the vaccine. While nearly 3,000 employees have applied for exemptions, roughly 1,000 have been granted while others continue to wait.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Education said 3,000 unvaccinated teachers were on unpaid leave, and 7,000 substitute teachers or paraprofessionals were used across the system Monday.2
The Supreme Court and Other Legal Attempts to Block the Mandate
On Friday, the Supreme Court received a request from the teachers. Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined the request for a block against the mandate.3 The Department of Education employees aren’t giving up with several other court cases in the legal process. As recent as this morning, another judge refused to block the mandate in a lower Manhattan court.2
California’s New Mandate
California has announced another new mandate as it continues to lead the way in first-of-a-kind mandates.
After implementing first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination measures, California becomes the first state to announce plans to require student vaccinations – adding the COVID-19 vaccine to list of vaccinations required for school, such as the vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella.
Students will be required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span (7-12 and K-6).4
Dr. Houman Hemmati, a California doctor, expressed his concern with the lack of evidence-based medicine dictating these policies. His concern is that there are several other factors of concern and danger impacting students that garner much less concern.
"We don't want to see even a single child die, but when you look at the numbers of deaths of children that have occurred as a result of other causes, you have many causes such as motor vehicle accidents, accidental injuries from bicycle accidents, drownings, poisonings, suicides, drug overdoses, homicides by gunshots - all exceeding this by an order of magnitude or greater."
"When you think about that, if schools really were a place where paternalistic medicine were to be practiced, where you would have a center of safety and health for children rather than just the Center for Education, wouldn't we be focusing on the true killers of kids that we just mentioned?" Dr. Hemmati questioned.5
Back in New York, Not Just Schools
Before former-Governor Andrew Cuomo left office, he put a mandate into place forcing New York state healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated or face termination. With the deadline passing last week, thousands of healthcare workers have left the field instead of taking the COVID vaccines. The already short-handed healthcare industry has continued to feel the strain as Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency so that she could utilize the National Guard to fill in as well as people who have licenses from outside of the state of New York. The shortages aren’t limited to hospitals, but nursing homes and other skilled healthcare clinics as well.
With no religious exemption available, several healthcare workers have filed lawsuits. Currently there is a hold on the mandate as courts prepare to hear arguments in mid-October.6
Members of the Military Also Taking Up the Mandate Fight
Members of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have also filed lawsuits against the Department of Defense, the FDA, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Their argument is that natural immunity should be valid in place of a vaccine as is the case with other illnesses.
"Service members that have natural immunity, developed from surviving the virus, should be granted a medical exception from compulsory vaccination because the DoD instruction policy reflects the well-established understanding that prior infection provides the immune system's best possible response to the virus," the lawsuit states.7