Covid-19 vaccine mandate now in effect for NYC educators

Originally Published: 04 OCT 21 08:53 ET
Updated: 04 OCT 21 10:04 ET

    (CNN) -- The president of one of the largest teachers' unions in New York City says 97% of its members have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, as the city's vaccine mandate for educators went into full effect on Monday.

Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers said if a teacher were to be vaccinated today, they can go to work tomorrow, adding it is "not too late." He estimated an additional 1,000 people were vaccinated over the weekend who are working in schools Monday.

"At any time, if they get vaccinated, they can go back to work the following day," he said.

The city department of education said Friday 90% of all DOE employees, 93% of teachers and 98% of principals have received at least one dose.

New York City Schools chancellor Meisha Porter said Friday she did not expect the mandate to cause a teacher shortage, partly because the large majority of educators were already vaccinated.

"We have more subs that are vaccinated than unvaccinated, teachers and our superintendents have been working with our principals to develop plans to ensure our students get the education and continue to get the education they deserve in person," Porter told CNN's Kate Bolduan.

The vaccine mandate went into effect Friday afternoon for the NYC school district, the nation's largest, with 1.1 million students.

The system has about 148,000 employees, including 48,000 teachers, the DOE reported. Employees who have not been vaccinated or granted an exemption will be moved to "leave without pay" status.

Approximately 3,000 UFT members applied for medical or religious accommodations, and close to 1,000 of those were approved, Mulgrew said.

"Most of them are medical accommodations those are people who have been vaccinated, but have no immune system at this point," he said.

He went on to say school safety has been a "political football" the past couple of years, as the staff has faced shortages with the vaccine mandate compounding the issue. He also expressed concern about what he claimed was a depletion in school safety officers.

UFT represents nearly 200,000 NYC public school educators and school-related professionals.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Monday "kids want to be back in school, in person. ... The safety protocols are the way to be in and stay in," she said.

She claimed getting vaccinated was the single most important thing in ensuring kids remain in school.

"We need to make sure whether it is Bill de Blasio in his final days, or whether it is the new mayor, we need to have a real partnership in schools, so that kids can thrive and that the educators can have the tools and conditions they need to help the recovery of kids right now," she said.

A group of city school teachers asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block the school system's vaccine mandate.

In court papers, lawyers for the teachers said New York City, as well as the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, have placed an "unconstitutional burden" on public school teachers.

Friday, US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor rejected the teachers' request to block the vaccine mandate.

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