(NewsNation Now) — As vaccine mandate compliance deadlines gets closer in the country’s biggest city, a former White House COVID-19 leader says New York City mayor Bill de Blasio should hit the pause button.
Police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors and most other city workers faced a 5 p.m. Friday deadline to show proof they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Workers who don’t comply will be put on unpaid leave starting Monday.
“I would encourage all people to get the vaccine, it is very effective, and it’s safe. But that being said, I think the crisis in New York City is artificial and unnecessary,” Dr. Brett Giroir said on NewsNation’s “The Donlon Report” on Friday.
Nearly one-fifth of city employees covered by the impending mandate had yet to receive at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday, including 21% of police personnel, 29% of firefighters and EMS workers and 33% of sanitation workers, according to city data. City jail guards have another month to comply.
As of 8 p.m. Thursday, 33,400 city workers remained unvaccinated. The city said it would provide updated vaccine rates on Saturday.
The fire department said it was prepared to close up to 20% of its fire companies and have 20% fewer ambulances in service while changing schedules, canceling vacations and turning to outside EMS providers to make up for expected staffing shortages.
Proponents of vaccine mandates say they’re the most effective tool to get holdouts to roll up their sleeves, but the immediate effect of losing one-fifth of the city’s police officers could create a disaster of its own.
“There will be a public health crisis in New York, and it’s not going to be because of COVID,” Giroir said. “It’s going to be because of heart attacks that don’t get responded to, fires that don’t get responded to as quickly as possible, and a crime spree.”
Giroir volunteered to bring in a group of “independent” physicians and nurses to “educate” hesitant public servants, and suggested a two-week grace period.
“This is ideology and trying to force something down people’s throat that they don’t want,” Giroir said. “It’s a political game. It’s not a public health effort.
Still, it likely has the legal legs to stand, if de Blasio doesn’t alter course over the weekend. The Supreme Court on Friday upheld Maine’s vaccine mandate for its health care workers even though it didn’t have a religious exemption.
Giroir also advocated against a mandate for school kids to get the vaccine. He said parents have the right to wait and see more results following Pfizer’s 8,000-child trial.
“If you’ve got a child who’s obese, has diabetes, asthma, any of those, I think it’s a no brainer, you really need to get (them vaccinated),” Giroir said. “If you’re in a low-risk area where there’s low disease, and you have a normal, healthy child, it’s a decision between you and your health care provider and your child. It should not be mandated.”
California has a vaccine mandate for schools in place, but it does not take effect until the vaccine receives full FDA approval. Currently, it has emergency use authorization.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot for adults does have full approval.
Watch “The Donlon Report” weeknights at 6/5c.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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