'Fewer than a dozen' uniformed police officers defy NYC vaccine mandate — despite predictions of doom

'Fewer than a dozen' uniformed police officers defy NYC vaccine mandate — despite predictions of doom
Capt. Jessica Oesch, a perioperative nurse in the Weed Army Community Hospital operating room, receives the first COVID-19 vaccine on Fort Irwin, Calif. on December 23. The hospital received a limited supply of vaccines and will vaccinate personnel in accordance with the Department of Defense's population schema. (U.S. Army photo by Kimberly Hackbarth/ Weed ACH Public Affairs) (Kimberly Hackbarth)

Over the weekend, thousands of people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge "in support of" police, firefighters, and other municipal employees who oppose the city's vaccine mandate. That protest was one of several that came with dire predictions about the consequences of the mandate. The New York Post (link purposely omitted) has been whining for weeks that the vaccine mandate will mean "fewer cops and more crime," warning that fire stations might be closed, and providing ominous predictions that "People will die in this city" because of vaccine mandates.

And as The Washington Post notes, the heads of five major unions warned that "10,000 unvaccinated police officers" could be pulled off the streets come November 1. It's November 2. So how did things actually go?

So far, the number of NYPD placed on unpaid leave is … 34. Of that, fewer than a dozen are uniformed officers. The rest are civilian staff.

There's a reason that, when Hammurabi wanted to keep people from cutting down trees in Babylon, he didn't offer a poem—he made a law that came with consequences. There's a reason stop lights are not a suggestion. And there's a reason any child entering a Florida elementary school is required to have vaccinations against seven different diseases, including four or five doses of vaccines against some of those diseases.

It's because mandates work. Recommendations, opinions, and proposals are all fine, but to ensure alignment with the public good, no matter how obvious, it takes a mandate. One that carries consequences.

There are still union officials out there waving their hands and predicting dire consequences. As New York's ABC 7 reports, Oren Barzilay, president of the NYC EMS union, is a vaccine skeptic who is was on hand at the bridge protest to provide some genuinely alarming statements.

"All our members were exposed to this disease, and we developed our natural immunity," said Barzilay. "If we have the natural antibodies in our body, is it necessary to really inject something else into our body?"

That's alarming not because of Barzilay's claims that half of EMS workers in the city might walk off the job, but because it's so profoundly ignorant—and because ABC ran that comment, and the comments of other vaccine skeptics, without bothering to provide a single word of correction.

The ABC 7 article is completely typical of how this situation is being presented to the public:

  • There are absolutely no comments from workers or vaccinated officials or from anyone who favors the mandate.
  • There are non-factual claims about "natural immunity" or how the vaccine doesn't work, none of which are countered by providing any facts or statistics.
  • There is an extended quote from a Republican candidate for mayor using this moment as a political lever, but no opposing comment.
  • Everything—everything—in the article is written to heighten the idea that this is a crisis about to topple the city.

As NPR reported last week, vaccine mandates are proving effective over and over. After warnings that airline workers would walk off the job, leaving travelers stranded, 99.5% of United employees were vaccinated before that company's deadline.

Elsewhere, other employers also report success with mandates. Tyson Foods, New York City schools, major hospital systems in Maine and the NBA are among those with vaccination rates topping 90%.

The month before that, the Washington Post showed that when Massachusetts State Police issued a mandate, only one (1) state trooper actually quit rather than take a jab. In North Carolina, 375 hospital workers (out of 35,000) were suspended after refusing to be vaccinated. But then, 200 of those came back and took their vaccine. That's another 99.5% vaccination rate.

Mask mandates work, as well. As Nature reported in May, countries, states, and communities with mandates had higher compliance in using masks, and much better results when it came to cases of COVID-19. Mask mandates directly contributed to dropping community spread by 70% within days in closely monitored German cities. Where mask-wearing was voluntary, results were much less dramatic. Mask mandates—enforced mask mandates—are key to how China pushed back the first wave of disease in that country and has avoided another surge, even against the much more contagious delta variant.

One study showed that a national mandate for wearing masks on the job could have had amazing results in the United States—including a 47% reduction in deaths.

When something is absolutely necessary for public protection, it takes a mandate. And the kind of numbers that these mandates are generating, numbers of 90% and above, are exactly the level of vaccination that's needed to actually bring COVID-19 under control and halt community spread in most areas.

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