CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

What’s the latest on the NYC DOE covid-19 vaccine mandate?

The New York City Department of Education has sought to introduce new vaccination requirements for teachers but is facing a legal challenge in state courts.

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What’s the latest on the NYC DOE covid-19 vaccine mandate?
ANGELA WEISS AFP

Last month Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City public school teachers and staff will be required to be vaccinated against covid-19, but a recent court ruling has thrown the city-wide mandate into doubt.

De Blasio had hoped that ensuring that all 148,000 staff members in the nation's largest school district were fully vaccinated would help slow the spread of the Delta variant across the city. Department of Educations in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington have already introduced similar rules, but the NYC mandate is now under threat.

On Friday the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit blocked the 27 September deadline that De Blasio had introduced, preventing the mandate from coming into force. The court has set a hearing on the dispute for Wednesday after city officials requested an expedited process.

Will the NYC schools vaccine mandate come into force?

The court’s decision last Friday marked a significant defeat for De Blasio who is under pressure to lower the city’s covid-19 infection rate. In letters to the court in recent days, the city’s legal team have argued that preventing the mandate going into force threatens public safety.

A letter signed by Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana warns that the mandate is essential for the "safe resumption of full school operations for the city’s nearly one million students."

It continues: "The order also upsets the reliance interests of parents and caregivers across the city - who need clear and sound safety protocols when they send their children to public schools in the city day after day.”

What effect could a vaccine mandate have on New York schools?

The consequence of the court’s decision last week was that city officials will have to wait longer for it to come into force, but the De Blasio administration remains confident that the additional restrictions will eventually be implemented.

A Department of Education spokeswoman, Danielle Filson, said: “We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve.”

In the past teachers and other school staff in NYC had been able to submit to regular testing to ‘opt-out’ of the vaccine requirements but that option will no longer be available, if the new mandate is introduced.

As of last Friday the city’s Department of Education said that 82% of employees had been vaccinated, and 88% of teachers. But there remain around 10,000 teachers who would not currently be able to enter a school if the mandate were introduced, along with many more members of school staff.

However last week De Blasio insisted that there would be no shortfall of teaching staff, saying: “We have a lot of substitutes ready. A lot is going to happen between now and Monday but beyond that we are ready even to the tune of if we need thousands, we have thousands.”