All New York City public school teachers and staff will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the city announced Monday, shortly after the Food and Drug Administration gave final approval to the Pfizer vaccine.
Students in the country's largest school district return to classes next month, and teachers and staff will need to have their first dose by Sept. 27. There is no alternative option for regular testing as some other districts have allowed.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter called the policy “another layer of protection for our kids."
Previously, teachers were subject to the same requirements as other city employees, which meant they would need to be vaccinated or face weekly testing. Currently, about 63 percent of school employees have already been vaccinated.
The city has not said what the penalty will be for refusing, or whether there will be exemptions. School starts Sept. 13 for the city’s roughly 1 million public school students.
Vaccine requirements have been a thorny issue among some labor unions and it's unclear how the unions representing teachers and other staff will respond.
Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioOversight panel eyes excessive bail, jail overcrowding in New York City The real 'threat to democracy'? Pols who polarize us with their opinions Five faces from the media who became political candidates MORE (D) said during a news conference that he's spoken to the leaders of key unions about the new mandate, and will start bargaining with them immediately over the specifics to make sure it is implemented fairly and equitably.
"Either way you slice it though, this policy is moving forward and this mandate will be in place," de Blasio said.
He added that he doesn't expect the mandate to result in mass resignations or staffing shortages.
"I feel confident that this will work, and we'll get a high level of compliance," de Blasio said.
De Blasio said a similar vaccine mandate for all city workers is still on the table, but he is not considering one for students, because he wants to make sure all children return to the classroom immediately.
The announcement comes the same day the Food and Drug Administration announced full approval for Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, one of three vaccines on the market for Americans.
"This is a game changing moment. We've been waiting for this for a long time, to have the full approval vaccine, we now have it," de Blasio said. "This helps us move forward and we're moving forward with our schools, with this new vaccine mandate."
The announcement comes as New York City, like the rest of the country, battles a surge in cases due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, though the impact in New York City has been less than other regions because of higher vaccination rates.
New York City last week began requiring proof of a first dose for most indoor dining, entertainment and gyms.
Updated at 11:34 a.m.