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More Than 20% of Brooklyn Hospital Workers Remain Unvaccinated Despite Mandate

Unvaccinated hospital workers are facing termination due to the State’s vaccine mandate
Through Healing, We Unite mural unveiling. Photo: Anna Bradley-Smith for BK Reader.

Brooklyn hospital workers have the lowest vaccination rate of the health care workers across the five boroughs at 79%, putting more than 20% of hospital employees in the borough at risk of termination due to the State’s vaccine mandate.

In August, the State implemented the vaccine mandate requiring health care workers to have at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 2, saying that it was following the science and guidance of federal and state health experts.

However, vaccine uptake amongst health care workers lagged in the weeks before the deadline, leading Governor Kathy Hochul to make plans for staffing shortfalls, which included possibly deploying members of the National Guard.

Although that has not come to fruition, with vaccination rates increasing in the days leading up to the mandate’s implementation, hundreds of Brooklyn hospital staff remain at risk of termination.

Brooklyn Paper reports that at Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, 200 employees are not vaccinated, including about 40 who have been terminated, about 60 placed on a leave of absence who will need to be vaccinated before returning, about 100 who have requested religious exemptions, and about 10 who have received medical exemptions.

The hospital is awaiting a court decision on a challenge brought by unvaccinated workers, who argue that the hospital must give religious exemptions.

The hospital told Brooklyn Paper 98% of staff had been fully vaccinated.

The publication also reported that 221 employees at SUNY Downstate were unvaccinated, with 172 facing disciplinary action. A spokesperson for the hospital said those numbers were likely to change with some people choosing vaccination over termination.

At NYC Health & Hospitals, which includes Coney Island Hospital, Kings County Hospital in Flatbush, Woodhull Hospital in Bed-Stuy and 10 neighborhood health centers branded under Gotham Health, a spokesperson said 92 percent of employees were vaccinated network, but they did not provide the numbers for individual centers. The spokesperson added that no one had been terminated, and unvaccinated employees had been placed on unpaid leave.

On Tuesday, the day after the mandate came into effect, Mayor Bill de Blasio said a lot of health care workers had responded to the deadline of the mandate by getting vaccinated in the days beforehand.

“Very happy to report we're seeing great results, particularly in our public health system, which has been heroic throughout this whole struggle against COVID and so far, pretty good also with our voluntary and private hospitals,” he said.

He added that there would be more last minute vaccinations as “people think twice about this, when they’re really looking down the barrel of not having a paycheck and a job anymore and a career.”

But for now, he added, the City had personnel it needed “right this minute to run our public health system effectively.”