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First responders in New York City have until Nov. 1 to get vaccinated

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

About 46,000 public employees in New York City still are not vaccinated - many of them first responders. And city officials now say they have just 10 days to get the shots.

Here's NPR's Brian Mann.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been ratcheting up vaccine pressure on public employees for months, mandating the jab for health workers and public education workers. That still left more than 140,000 employees who could opt out of the COVID vaccine and instead choose to get tested regularly. But at a press conference yesterday, de Blasio said vaccines are the only way to keep cops and other city workers safe.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BILL DE BLASIO: Horrible, tragic reality - 460 law enforcement officers have been lost to COVID nationwide - the single biggest killer of those who protect us. We've got to fight that killer. We've got to fight COVID with everything we've got.

MANN: De Blasio said it's also a civic responsibility for city workers to help protect their community from COVID.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

DE BLASIO: We need you to keep everyone around you in the workplace safe. We need you to make sure that people who you encounter - the people of the city, the residents of the city - are safe. Everyone needs to be vaccinated.

MANN: De Blasio said past mandates have been effective, causing thousands of workers to get vaccinated. He also announced a sweetener. City employees getting their first jab will receive a $500 bonus. But some union leaders are pushing back.

Andrew Ansbro with Uniformed Firefighters Association spoke at a press conference yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ANDREW ANSBRO: We in the UFA have always been pro-vaccine, but we are also pro-choice and anti-mandate.

MANN: In a statement sent to NPR, Patrick Lynch, head of the union that represents New York City cops, also said his union supports vaccines. But he said getting vaccinated should be a personal medical decision. We will proceed with legal action to protect our members' rights, Lynch said.

Vincent Alvarez, who heads the New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, said if officials follow through and lay off public employees who aren't vaccinated on November 1, the disruption to essential services could be serious.

VINCENT ALVAREZ: And that should be a primary concern to the people of the city, that we're able to continue to maintain services and to do it safely.

MANN: Suspensions without pay could affect more than 30% of New York's police and firefighters who still haven't been vaccinated.

Brian Mann, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK'S "PERPETUAL PURPOSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.