Saying that more than 96% of all New York City workers are now vaccinated against COVID-19, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday that vaccination will become optional for current and prospective city employees effective Friday.
The move would take effect following expected ratification at the next meeting of the Board of Health, Adams said.
In making the announcement, Adams said that while the vaccine mandate helped keep New Yorkers safe — and city operations running — throughout the course of the pandemic, with more than 331,000 city workers now vaccinated the mandate is no longer necessary.
"City workers stepped up tremendously throughout the pandemic," Adams said in a statement Monday, adding: "From our health care frontline workers and first responders who saved lives, to the city employees who kept our streets clean, our schools open, and our streets safe, we owe city workers a debt of gratitude from their service during New York City's darkest days."
Adams said that while his administration will continue to urge "every New Yorker" to "get vaccinated, get boosted" and to "take the necessary steps to protect themselves and those around them" from COVID-19, the vaccination mandates are simply no longer needed.
Officials said Monday that more than 80% of New Yorkers have had their two initial vaccination shots at this time, which also played a role in deciding to drop the requirement.
News that the vaccination requirement will become optional affects a group of city workers, including those employees with the city's Department of Education.
The mayor's office, in releasing the statement, said that while the approximately 1,780 employees terminated for failing to submit proof of vaccination will not be able to automatically return to their prior positions, those workers will be able to apply for positions with their former agencies through existing city rules and regulations as part of the hiring process. The city also will end the vaccination requirements for nonpublic school, early child care and day care staff, the mayor said.
Police Benevolent Association president Patrick J. Lynch said that while the announcement comes as welcome news, the city should not just open the hiring process again to fired employees.
“We are glad that the City has decided to stop fighting against our court victory overturning this unjust and illogical mandate," Lynch said in a statement. "However, the job is only half done. We call on the City to ensure that our members who were fired or had their employment unfairly impacted are reinstated, with back pay and without condition.”
In September a Manhattan state Supreme Court judge struck down the vaccination mandate for NYPD officers following a PBA lawsuit. The judge ordered that NYPD members who were fired or put on leave without pay because of that mandate should be reinstated.
The city immediately appealed the decision, halting the implementation of that order. The appeal is still ongoing, a PBA spokesman said, and the status of those NYPD officers who lost their jobs remains in limbo.
With Robert Brodsky