COVID school testing

FULL SPEED AHEAD: The United Federation of Teachers was among the labor unions tapped by Governor Cuomo to prepare plans to help their members receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to increase the pace of vaccinations. Above, COVID tests are administered at a Harlem school.

The United Federation of Teachers announced Jan. 9 that it had reached an agreement with major health care networks to administer the COVID vaccine to Teachers and other staff beginning this week.

The union, which has partnered with NYC Emblem Health, HIP, Northwell, and other health care providers to launch the program, sent emails to UFT members asking those interested in being vaccinated to sign up for the program.


Who Gets Priority

The union, which has nearly 150,000 active members, will establish a list of educators who want to immediately be vaccinated, with priority given to those currently working in school buildings.

Eighty-one school employees have died from COVID since March. UFT President Michael Mulgrew estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of his members wanted to receive the vaccine.

“This is the beginning of getting to the end of this horrible crisis that this entire city and country and world is going through,” he said outside  Hillcrest High School, which has been designated as a COVID vaccination site.

Last week, Governor Cuomo advised labor organizations representing front-line workers who fall into Phase 1B, including education unions, to devise plans to vaccinate their members in order to reduce the burden on hospitals and retail operators.. It will also speed the pace of vaccinations.

“Thousands of vaccine doses sit idle, or are even wasted, as the current system leaves health-care providers waiting and hoping for eligible recipients to show up,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “We are creating a pool of members who opt-in, who want the vaccine, and then will match them to providers who have vaccines available.”

Keeping It Voluntary

The coalition NY Teachers for Choice feared that the COVID vaccine would be required and called on Mr. Mulgrew to oppose mandatory vaccinations.

“Almost every other union boss in NYC has come out and said they will not require their members to be injected with this vaccine to keep their jobs,” steering committee member Michael Kane wrote in a Jan. 6 open letter to him.

A UFT spokeswoman said Mr. Mulgrew "stressed it is a personal decision whether or not to be vaccinated and reminded everyone that New York State will not mandate the vaccine." 

The Governor gave educators the green light to begin being vaccinated Jan. 10. But he cautioned that it could take weeks to vaccinate the state’s 6 million front-line workers and people over 75 who were in Phase 1B. He cited supply issues, although he was hopeful that production of the vaccine would soon increase.

City Running Behind

So far, the city has received 524,000 doses of the vaccine but has administered only 203,000.

Mayor de Blasio announced five additional schools—John Adams High School in Queens, Wingate High in Brooklyn, Brandeis High in Manhattan, Taft High in The Bronx and Susan Wagner High in Staten Island—would serve as vaccination sites starting Jan. 10.

Three other schools—Bushwick Educational Campus in Brooklyn, Hillcrest High in Queens and South Bronx Educational Campus—were also previously designated.

Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro said that his union was “working with the city to ensure that our members have access to the COVID-19 vaccine."

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