Over 50% of New York City firefighters may refuse Covid-19 vaccine, some don’t want to be ‘test subjects’: Poll

Over 50% of New York City firefighters may refuse Covid-19 vaccine, some don’t want to be ‘test subjects’: Poll
(Getty Images)

More than half of the firefighters in New York City are not likely to get a coronavirus vaccine once it is authorized and become available to them. Nearly 55% of 2,053 firefighters responded "no" when asked, “will you get the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer when the department makes it available?” suggests a survey conducted by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA). The union represents 8,200 active firefighters in New York City.

The results of the poll come even as the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has told its members, including its Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers, that while Covid-19 vaccine will not be made mandatory for them, the department recommends that members consider the overall health benefits.

UFA president Andy Ansbro told the New York Post that several healthy firefighters in their 30s and 40s have become less fearful of the virus as they have overcome it themselves or know of colleagues who have recovered after a diagnosis. “A lot of them probably feel they are not in a risk category, they are younger, stronger, they may have already had it and gotten through it, and feel it’s not their problem. They are more familiar with the coronavirus than they are with the vaccine,” he explained.

EMS workers are skeptical, according to Oren Barzilay, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors union. “A few are anxious to get it, but there have been a few dozen responses saying, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ They were thankful it was not mandatory, because they don’t want to be looked at as test subjects,” emphasized Barzilay. He added, “I personally am going to wait and see what the side effects are, what the independent studies show.”

Coronaviruses cases are soaring across the US, including New York. On December 5, the positive testing rate in all focus zone areas was 6.22%, and New York State positivity outside all focus zone areas was 4.24%. The statewide positivity rate was 4.71%. According to available data, on November 26, the positive testing rate in all focus zone areas was 5.69%, while New York State positivity outside all focus zone areas was 3.13%. The statewide positivity rate was 3.72%.

While asking people to wear a mask, avoid indoor gatherings, and socially distance, New York Governor Cuomo said that the “light at the end of the tunnel” is the vaccine, and while one is coming, people must be disciplined until then.

New York Governor Cuomo said that the 'light at the end of the tunnel' is a Covid-19 vaccine, and people must be disciplined until one comes (Getty Images)


“Covid-19 is spreading, and it affects all New Yorkers, upstate, and downstate. This is a war and we continue to adapt to the enemy by making decisions based on data and science — not opinion and fear. We’re closely monitoring hospital capacity and have implemented triggers to ensure hospitals have what they need,” emphasized Cuomo. He added, “The vaccine is the weapon that is going to win the war, and that is the light at the end of the tunnel, right? So, it’s not tomorrow, it’s not a short tunnel, but we know the way through this. We just have to get there, and we have to get there with as little loss of life as possible."

This is not the first survey that indicates that some frontline workers may refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. A pilot study of New York City’s bus and subway workers in August this year had found that despite the virus’s devastating impact on New York City and transit workers, less than a third or 30% planned to get a Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available, while 38% were not sure and 32% said they would not take it. The main reason for their uncertainty or not getting vaccinated was the lack of trust in a vaccine’s safety.

Conducted by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health, in coordination with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, the results were based on responses of 645 transit workers. “The main sources of trusted, reliable information included: personal healthcare provider, CDC, Governor Cuomo, and the TWU leadership. A sizeable proportion stated they no longer trust anyone,” concluded the researchers.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted an emergency use authorization (EUA) application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their vaccine candidates. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) of the FDA will meet on December 10 to discuss Pfizer’s EUA request. Moderna has said that the panel meeting to review its request will likely be scheduled for December 17. Following recommendations of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the CDC has published a report that states both healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered Covid-19 vaccine in the initial phase of the vaccination program.

While President-elect Joe Biden has said that a coronavirus vaccine should not be made mandatory, others believe mandatory vaccination would be the best way to protect the public. The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) in November recommended that the state consider mandating a coronavirus vaccine once a scientific consensus emerges that it is safe, effective, and necessary. “It may become necessary to require that certain individuals or communities be vaccinated, such as health care workers and students, to protect the public’s health,” noted Mary Beth Morrissey, chair of the Health Law Section’s Task Force on Covid-19, and a research fellow at Fordham University’s Global Health Care Innovation Management Center.

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