De Blasio Says There Will Not Be Teacher Shortage Due To Vaccine Mandate

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New York City officials say there will not be a teacher shortage next week when the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that there is no evidence teachers will strike over the vaccine mandate in large enough numbers to disrupt in-person learning.

De Blasio says high demand for substitute teachers during last school year prepared the district to replace educators on short notice. Families should not worry that teachers and staff will disappear due to the vaccine mandates.

The city began recruited substitutes last year, as about 25 percent of city teachers worked from home due to medical accommodation. The mayor told WNYC's Brian Lehrer that if the district needs "thousands [of substitutes], we have thousands."

The city teachers union challenged the vaccine mandate, but State Supreme Court Judge Laurence Love reinstated the requirement in a decision handed down earlier this week.

Beginning Monday, September 27, all city teachers and school staff will need to prove they've received at least one dose of the vaccine in order to work.

New York City's vaccine mandate impacts about 148,000 school workers and contractors. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) estimates about 6,000 of its members had not been vaccinated ahead of Monday's deadline. Of that group, about 3,000 applied for medical exemptions. A few hundred had been approved by Friday, according to the mayor.

The UFT is not convinced the city has a plan to ensure schools are adequately staffed, not just with teachers, but with other staff like safety agents and cafeteria workers.

"We encourage everyone in our schools to get vaccinated," UFT said in a statement Friday. "But the city's failure to plan for the inevitable staffing shortage some schools will face on Tuesday, after the vaccine mandate takes effect, puts many of our school communities at risk. Our vaccinated staff in these school will be left without support, and thousands of our students will not have teachers. We need a plan."

Unlike the vaccine mandate for city employees, educators do not have the option to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to keep their jobs.

The safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines has been affirmed in clinical trials and in real world situations. The vaccines are approved for anyone over 12 years old. The state Department of Education reasons that the vaccines are essential for keeping young children and staff that work with them safe from the virus.

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