NEW YORK: New York City will require public school teachers and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday (Aug 23), part of a push to get more residents vaccinated and slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
The city's health department will order that all 148,000 staff members in the United States' largest school district have at least one dose of a vaccine by Sep 27, de Blasio said. School is set to begin in New York City on Sep 13.
In a first for city employees, Department of Education staff will no longer have the option to submit to weekly testing instead.
"We want our schools to be extraordinarily safe all year long," de Blasio told a news conference.
The mayor's announcement followed news on Monday that the US Food and Drug Administration had granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Shortly after the FDA's announcement, the Pentagon said it was preparing to make the vaccine mandatory for US military personnel.
US health officials expect that the agency's full approval also will prompt more state and local governments, as well as private employers, to impose vaccine mandates.
On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that all state employees, including educators, will be required to get vaccinated or get tested "at a minimum of once to twice each week."
School employees in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington state have also been ordered to get the vaccine.
Meisha Porter, chancellor of New York City's public schools, said at least 63per cent of employees were already vaccinated against COVID-19.
This month, New York City required proof of COVID-19 vaccination at restaurants, gyms and other businesses. The mandate sparked backlash from some business owners and residents who sued de Blasio.
The latest mandate also could face resistance from unions representing New York City teachers and staff.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UTF), said the union's priority was to keep children safe and school open. But in a statement, he added that "there are many implementation details, including provisions for medical exceptions, that by law must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary, resolved by arbitration."
Efforts to increase vaccination rates and implement public safety measures like mask wearing in schools have faced staunch opposition in some parts of the country, especially in some Southern states that have been hard hit by the Delta variant.
In Florida, some school districts now face the potential loss of some public funding because they mandated masks in defiance of a ban on that step by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is another Republican who has acted to block local officials from mandating face coverings. He was dealt a setback late last week when the state's Supreme Court temporarily allowed schools to keep mask mandates in place.