Unions gear up for vaccinations

Stephon Johnson | 1/14/2021, midnight
Many frontline workers are union members and the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 marks their turn in line for COVID-19 ...
Vaccine Canva photo

Many frontline workers are union members and the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 marks their turn in line for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Cops, firefighters, nurses and teachers are gearing up to take the vaccinations, but not everyone’s going to take them.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state government’s working hard to distribute the vaccines as quickly as possible.

“New York State is rapidly expanding our networks and capabilities to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated as fast as our supply allows,” Cuomo stated. “The new vaccine sites across the state will expedite our distribution to get our most vulnerable New Yorkers vaccinated efficiently. Our greatest hindrance continues to be federal inaction.”

But even though vaccines are available, it doesn’t mean that workers are mandated to take them.

A United Federation of Teachers spokesperson told the AmNews that despite the issues related to the coronavirus and possible close contact with students, vaccinations are an individual choice.

“Gov. Cuomo has been clear, as has Mayor de Blasio: vaccines are voluntary,” said UFT spokesperson Alison Gendar to the AmNews. “The basis for this, per our attorney, is that the vaccines have been approved under an emergency use authorization, and so by U.S. code they cannot be mandated.

“The effort in NYC and across the state (and nation) is an educational effort to show the vaccines are safe and the best way end the pandemic.”

On the other side Tony Utaro, president of TWU Local 100, told the AmNews while it isn’t mandated, he’d highly recommend his members get the vaccination.

“We’ve been stressing to the MTA for many months that transit workers need to be a priority for vaccines, and now we are,” Utaro said. “I’m encouraging transit workers to get the vaccine and I intend to get it too.

“This is literally the light at the end of the tunnel,” continued Utaro. “Transit workers have sacrificed and endured a hell of a lot making sure New York City kept moving and functioning through this crisis. We are still out there today and are critical to the recovery everyone has been praying for.”

Since it’s illegal to mandate vaccinations, the New York State Nurses Association’s not immune to the rules. Despite its role in dealing with COVID-19 patients a recent statement from the union said that while people aren’t obligated to take it, it recommended that the most vulnerable among its ranks take it.

“In our role as patient advocates in NYS, we strongly support prioritization of frontline workers, older adults, people with underlying medical conditions and people from disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups,” read NYSNA’s statement. “Federal and state authorities should abide by principles of informed consent and maintain an individual’s right to choose vaccination. We firmly oppose mandatory vaccination of health care providers.”