New York City ends Vaccine mandate and pushes booster shot

New York City will no longer mandate that private employers require all of their workers to be vaccinated for Covid-19, and children will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to participate in sports or other after-school activities, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday, as he continued to roll back restrictions that had defined an earlier stage of the pandemic.

With the potent new bivalent boosters now available, and now that 89 percent of city residents, including children, had received at least one dose of a vaccine, Mr. Adams said it was time to usher in a new stage of flexibility for parents and businesses, although he left a mandate for city workers in place.

“It’s time to move on to the next level of fortifying our city,” he said.

But Mr. Adams stopped short of agreeing with President Biden’s assertion on Sunday that the pandemic was over — a remark, made by Mr. Biden during an interview on “60 Minutes,” that caused vaccine-maker stocks to slide on Wall Street and generated pushback from experts. Instead, Mr. Adams said that Covid was a tricky opponent and that he didn’t know what was on the horizon.

“I think that the most scary part of the pandemic may be in our rearview mirror,” the mayor said. “But there’s a possibility of another variant and we have to move in a very strategic, smart way.”

Under Mr. Adams, New York — once notably more Covid-cautious than most of the nation — has gone mainstream. Masking is now optional everywhere except at health care centers and nursing homes. Vaccination was once required for people to eat inside restaurants. But starting on Nov. 1, some 184,000 private businesses, including restaurants, will no longer have to check workers’ vaccine cards. Health care workers, however, are still required to be vaccinated under a state rule.

Mr. Adams received the bivalent booster live on camera on Tuesday morning at City Hall in Lower Manhattan, and announced a new campaign to encourage New Yorkers to get boosted.

“We think it’s imperative to send the right message and lead by example, as I’m doing today by getting my booster shot,” he said.

Some public health experts and disability advocates have criticized local and federal officials for removing public health measures at a time when more than 400 Americans are dying from the coronavirus every day and many more remain seriously ill from long Covid. In the city, case numbers are lower than they were this summer, at about 1,900 new cases per day, but they began to rise gradually again after school started.

Official city figures are a major undercount, as they do not include at-home tests. The one city-run institution that does record many at-home tests — the public schools — has seen a more significant rise in cases in recent days. About 1,800 cases were recorded in New York City public schools alone on Monday.

City officials argue that with vaccination and treatments like Paxlovid, as well as continued masking and isolation rules for those with Covid, case numbers are no longer a reliable guide to the risks that Covid-19 poses. But while overall vaccination rates in the city are high, the top-line numbers mask some broad disparities.

Like many across the nation, very few parents in the city have had their youngest children vaccinated. Only 1 percent of Hispanic children under the age of 5 have been fully vaccinated, compared with 4 percent of Asian children and 5 percent of white children. So few Black children under the age of 5 have been fully vaccinated that the city registers that rate as 0 percent.

Booster rates in the city have also stagnated. Only 40 percent of those who completed their primary vaccine series have gotten a third or fourth dose. The city is hoping that the new booster, which is tailored toward the Omicron variants that are now circulating, will attract more people. Some New Yorkers did rush in to get the new shots: As of Sunday, 75,000 people in the city had already gotten the bivalent booster.

The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said that because federal pandemic funding was drying up, the city would not be able to offer the health infrastructure it once did, including vaccine pop-up clinics at schools and other venues. He said that families seeking boosters should rely on pediatrician offices, but many low-income families do not have easy access to them.

Dr. Vasan encouraged New Yorkers to book booster appointments on the city’s Vaccine Finder website. He said he was hopeful that the updated boosters would help slow transmission.

Dr. Vasan said the city would probably continue to remove additional restrictions in time, including the city worker vaccine mandate, as it entered a “glide path toward normal.”

The city worker vaccine mandate has led to the firings of more than 1,750 workers as of Sept. 14, including police officers. Patrick J. Lynch, the leader of a major police union, said his members should get their jobs back.

“This announcement is more proof that the vaccine mandate for New York City police officers is arbitrary, capricious and fundamentally irrational,” he said.

Source: The New York Times. Click here for the full story


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