Saturday 4 December 2021

New York City Mandates Vaccines for Religious, Private School Employees

 Not even the Catholic schools are free in New York City, where the government has just ordered a vaccine mandate for religious and private school employees.

Announced Thursday, the new directive will require employees at yeshivas, Catholic schools, and other private institutions to have at least one dose of a vaccine by December 20. The order will affect “roughly 930 schools and 56,000 employees, city officials,” according to the New York Times.

“We’re doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff, and a mandate for nonpublic school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

While public school and education employees are required to be fully vaccinated, the city has resisted implementing a vaccine mandate for students, unlike the city of Los Angeles, which requires vaccinations for students 12 & up. Los Angeles has not yet mandated the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

“California was the first state to issue a vaccine mandate for all teachers, covering public and private schools, but allowed a weekly testing option,” noted the Times. “Washington followed days later; its mandate offered no testing option, but allowed for religious or medical exemptions.”

Jewish and Catholic leaders voiced concern over the mandate, arguing it infringes on their right to a religious exemption.

“The practical impact of the city imposing an immunization mandate could be devastating to our schools and the children they serve,” Rabbi David Zwiebel wrote in a letter that was also signed by Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, the superintendent of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s schools.

“The reality is that the small percentage of school employees who have chosen not to vaccinate have made a personal choice based on their individual circumstances and personal values,” it added.

Echoing arguments from the city’s police and firefighters unions, the letter warned that a vaccine mandate could lead to the firing of qualified teachers.

“As a result, the school will have to hire new qualified teachers and other staff to fill the newly created vacancies,” the letter continues. “In an era when finding high-quality teachers and staff is so difficult even at the beginning of the school year finding high quality replacement staff in the middle of the school year may be impossible.”

The city of New York currently has a vaccination rate upward of 70 percent.

While New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has expressed support for the vaccines, he commended Mayor Bill de Blasio in August for not implementing a vaccine mandate, allowing the church to encourage employees to be vaccinated of their own free will. At the time, unvaccinated teachers were required to submit weekly negative tests.

“We can’t jeopardize the health of the kids,” Dolan said.

The Catholic Church has endorsed the coronavirus vaccine as a necessary remedy to combat the pandemic.

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