COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the lives of people across the world and 5 million people have died.
While returning to normality is a difficulty in itself, the method most countries have supported to do this has been divisive.
In the US, employers are rolling out President Biden’s executive order, which mandates all employees of companies that work with the government must get vaccinated. This measure also does not allow for regular tests instead of a vaccine unless there is a reasonable reason for exemption.
New York City has now begun enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers. This will leave thousands of workers who have chosen not to get vaccinated suspended from work.
Workers refusing to be vaccinated
More than 2,000 of 11,000 New York City firefighters have taken sick days over the past week in what city officials describe as a mass protest.
According to the New York Post, the fire commissioner, Daniel A Nigro commented that: “Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters.”
In order to adapt to this challenge, and keep fire stations open, personnel have had to work different shifts and with different stations.
Despite claims of a mass protest, others have attributed firefighters getting vaccinations as the cause of rising sick days.
Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, told The New York Times: “Hundreds of guys are feeling flulike symptoms, because that’s what the shot does to people.”
In general, there has been a large uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations with 90% of municipal workers having at least one shot.
Nonetheless, this leaves 23,000 workers without a shot and under the new rules, they will be suspended from work until their vaccination status changes.
It is unclear how many of the 23,000 have valid medical or religious exemptions.
At the moment, the police department in the city has received applications for exemptions for some 6,500 officers.
Speaking about the overall progress of the vaccine mandate, Danielle Filson, press secretary for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, said: “Over 91% of New York City workers have stepped up for their communities and gotten the shot.
“With such strong numbers and dedicated public servants who never fail to go above and beyond, we expect services to run smoothly.”
Working with employees
While the legal aspect of a vaccine mandate in New York City is air-tight unless there is a valid exception, employers can also help staff get the vaccine.
When UNLEASH spoke to Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law Dorit Reiss, she explained that if employees are concerned about the vaccine then “give them access to credible experts [or] maybe arrange a panel to [answer] questions about the vaccine.”
Reiss also noted the importance of employers giving workers the time out of their working day to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Going forward, the likes of ServiceNow has enabled companies to see the vaccination status of employees without breaching data regulation.
Additionally, the likes of IBM have used its Digital Health Pass solution to support opening up the workplace. Similar technology has been created by Proxy. Proxy Health allows companies to scan a barcode to find out whether employees are vaccinated.
On the back of these technologies, COVID-19 vaccination status will continue impact US employment, regardless of ongoing staff shortages.