NEW YORK — A group of anti-vaccine municipal workers in New York City launched a last-minute effort to avoid getting fired Friday as Mayor Eric Adams said other vaccine-resistant employees were finally getting the jab.
Claiming that the rules violate their “fundamental religious and constitutional rights,” the vaccine opponents asked a Brooklyn federal judge to temporarily bar the city from firing workers who haven’t been vaccinated. Similar lawsuits filed by city workers against the vaccine mandate have flopped in court.
As plaintiffs including a NYPD officer, a FDNY rescue medic and employees of other agencies sought to make their case in court, Adams stuck by the mandate, which was created by his predecessor Bill de Blasio.
“It’s not about termination. It’s about vaccination,” he told reporters. “We want people to be vaccinated. I don’t want to see the city close down again. And all we can do is continue to encourage people to get vaccinated and hopefully people get the booster shot.”
Late last month, the city sent termination warnings to nearly 4,000 employees. Adams on Friday suggested some of those workers have since gotten vaccinated, but said the exact number likely wouldn’t be known until the weekend.
“What we do know is that we have had an amazing response of from city workers and we are truly encouraged by those numbers,” he said.
Municipal workers had to show they’d gotten at least two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Friday.
The anti-vaccine suit, led by a group called New Yorkers for Religious Liberty Inc., argues that the mandate contains “unconstitutional conditions on employment.”
“These are the heroes on the front lines for the last two years, and all of a sudden, now they’re being told they can’t come to work if they want to follow their faith and practice their religion,” the group's lawyer Sujata Gibson told the Daily News.
Echoing a number of cops, plaintiffs including NYPD officer Dean Paolillo cited concerns over the use of fetal cell lines during COVID vaccine research.
“I ... could never take any medications or vaccines that have a connection to abortion in their development and/or testing as it would be a grave sin against the Lord,” Paolillo said in a sworn declaration. “I cannot use products that use aborted cell lines in either developing or testing.”
Aborted fetal cell lines, or cloned copies of cells, are commonly used in medical research.
The suit makes iffy claims about the vaccines, arguing that that they “blunt the severity” of infection — a widely accepted fact — but don’t stop transmission to others.
“Infections with the delta variant in vaccinated persons potentially have reduced transmissibility than infections in unvaccinated persons,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated last year, noting more research was needed.
The suit faces long odds. Late Thursday, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge rejected a union coalition’s effort to block the firings. And last fall, a Staten Island judge denied a request from the city’s largest police union to prevent the mandate from going into effect.