Dozens of New York City firefighters, FDNY employees and other municipal workers rallied Monday at the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall to protest a vaccine mandate that could leave them without jobs by the end of the week.
With a Friday deadline looming and their employment status in the balance, the sign-waving, slogan-chanting anti-vaxxers said Mayor Adams and other city leaders have no right to decide what’s best for their bodies.
“I don’t think that I need it, you know?” said Anita Ferrandino, 56, a Brooklyn EMT stationed in Sunset Park. “If you want to do that, it should be your decision. I don’t care if you got it. I don’t care if you got the first, second or third shot. But in my body I don’t want it. Everybody should have decisional capacity. It’s not for the good of the department. They keep telling me that. If you think about it, you can still get, give and die from it.”
Ferrandino joined members of the organization Bravest for Choice for a rally outside FDNY headquarters at MetroTech Center in Brooklyn. There, speakers denounced the mandate and unfurled a giant American flag.
As of last week, some 4,000 city workers faced firing over their refusal to get the lifesaving jab. Adams has said city employees have had more than enough time to comply with the mandate, which took effect November 1.
“Safety is not only to stop the bullet, a knife or some other item. Safety is COVID. COVID is taking lives,” Adams said last week. “There must be rules, and we must follow them. The rule is to get vaccinated if you are a city employee.”
Despite Friday’s looming deadline, vaccination rates among city agencies have stayed stagnant for weeks, according to City Hall data.
The vaccination rate for the entire municipal workforce, which comprises roughly 375,000 employees, stood at 95 percent last Wednesday, the same as when former Mayor Bill de Blasio left office on January 1, the data shows.
The NYPD and the Department of Correction, which have the lowest rates out of all the agencies, reported 88% of its workforces vaccinated last Wednesday.
All unvaccinated city workers aren’t facing termination this Friday, however.
The impacted workers are those who have been on unpaid leave since the city’s vaccine mandate took effect on November 1 without electing to receive city-provided health benefits, as well as those who were hired after August 2 but have yet to present proof of receiving a second vaccine dose.
As of last week, there were about 4,000 city workers who fell into the targeted categories. It was not clear late Monday if that number has changed, and City Hall reps declined to comment.
Vaccines have been proven to be overwhelmingly effective in reducing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. More than 540 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S., and serious side effects are extremely rare.
The protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, snarling midday traffic en route to City Hall. One protester held a sign that read “Unvaccinated lives matter.” Others insisted they were part of a “pro-choice” movement.
D’Anna Morgan, an administrator at Northwell Health, has been on unpaid leave since Sept. 29. She said she relies on odd jobs and baby-sitting gigs to get by.
“It’s my right to choose what I want to put in my body, you know?” Morgan, 26, said. “I think everybody should have a choice. Say someone wants to get the vaccine, fine, go ahead get the vaccine. But if I don’t want to get it, don’t vilify me. I feel like it came out too fast. I’m not saying I’ll never get it, I’m just saying not right now.”
She said she would rather have the option to take a test every week. If not, she said she would start looking for a new job on Long Island.
Paul Schweit, 31, an FDNY member on unpaid leave, co-founded the Bravest For Choice organization, which helps workers cope with the financial challenges that come with opposition to the mandate.
“This is about supporting each other when times are hard,” he told the MetroTech crowd. ”So what we’re going do right now is reach all those offices in the top of this building to let them know that we think this is unjust. That we’re not going to lay down and watch this happen.”
Top Feature Photo: Many of the anti-vax workers wore shirts reading “Bravest for Choice,” which is an organization that supports workers opposed to the vaccine mandate – Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News