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96 Percent of New York’s Teachers Are Now Vaccinated, Because Mandates Work

De Blasio gestures as he speaks outside a school
Bill de Blasio is showing the rest of the country how to handle vaccines. Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Last week, the deadline finally arrived for New York City public school employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave. The city’s mandate was far stricter than those being imposed in some other cities and states, as it did not give employees the option to be tested weekly in lieu of a shot. NYC’s educators simply have to get vaxxed if they want to keep collecting their salaries.

So, how’s it working out? Extremely well! When I wrote about New York’s vaccine push on Wednesday, 92 percent of teachers and 89 percent of the entire Department of Education workforce had been inoculated—not bad, but not quite ideal. Since then, however, thousands more doses have gone into arms: Compliance is now up to 96 percent among teachers and 95 percent among all employees, the New York Times reports today.

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Despite the high overall compliance rate, cooperation has varied a bit across the system, and some schools have had to suspend more of their employees than others. As a result, at least a few are reportedly facing staffing shortages they have to plug with substitute teachers. But the big picture is that the effort is working. It’s been so successful, according to the Times, that other city agencies could eventually have to follow suit:

New York’s mandate, which took effect when the school day started on Monday, is the mayor’s first attempt at requiring vaccination without a test-out option for any city workers. It could lay the groundwork for a much broader requirement for the city’s vast work force.

“These mandates work, and we’re going to consider in the days ahead what else makes sense to do,” Mr. de Blasio said during a news conference on Monday, when asked about mandating vaccines for other city workers.

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I literally cannot think of the last time I wanted to stand up and applaud Bill de Blasio. But the oaf from Park Slope really deserves three cheers for using his lame-duck months to blaze an appropriately aggressive trail on this issue.

Anyway, this all bodes rather well for other cities, such as Washington, that have chosen to ditch the testing option for public school teachers. And it’s in keeping with the overall pattern we’re seeing at institutions across the country, where vaccine mandates simply seem to be working as intended, with relatively few workers choosing to drop their jobs in protest. In hospital system after hospital system, the vast majority of workers have gotten shots. At the meat processing company Tyson Foods, which announced a vaccine requirement back in August, 91 percent of its 120,000 workers have complied. United Airlines says that, thanks to its mandate, almost all of its 67,000 employees are now vaccinated (about 2,000 have asked for religious or medical exemptions, while a “few hundred more failed to comply with the mandate and could be fired in coming weeks,” according to the Times). Before the requirement was announced, executives believed that just 70 percent of workers were vaccinated; at Delta Air Lines, where executives have decided to try and nudge employees to get vaccinated by charging those who don’t higher insurance premiums, just 82 percent had gotten a shot by late September.

Point being: Vaccine mandates seem to be working as intended across different sorts of institutions, ranging from large urban school districts to national corporations with large, diverse workforces. More companies, cities, and states should follow their lead.

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