More than 100 of the department’s 2,000 firefighters refused to show up for work – and left their trucks – after refusing the city’s requirement that they get vaccinated for hepatitis B
More than 100 of the New York City firefighters who show up daily to defend the Big Apple have refused to show up in favor of a new mandatory vaccination policy, forcing the closure of several firehouses while some workers receive medical treatment.
The decision to refuse the vaccinations, which begins next month, apparently stems from a number of conditions, including the delayed delivery of some vaccines and the original “black powder” vaccine. Workers said they felt unsafe giving up the vaccine due to the side effects, including abdominal pain and dizziness.
Firefighters protest against new state vaccination rules for young people Read more
The evacuation of firehouses in the Bronx and Brooklyn is the latest blow to public healthcare systems after New York legislators passed legislation requiring children to obtain health insurance and submit to vaccines.
The city requires firefighters to have vaccines for hepatitis B, meningitis and tetanus, which also come with other side effects.
“We do have safety concerns with this particular policy, so we decided not to go on the job,” Dennis DiPaola, the president of Local Uniformed Firefighters Association, told Gothamist.
Firefighters take a break in the Bronx borough of New York City, Saturday, 8 July. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
In at least one case, work-related issues prompted firefighters to leave the firehouse and leave their trucks at around 2pm on Saturday. In another, the department’s sickout is now so intense that it has forced multiple firehouses to close temporarily and delayed the opening of others by 30 to 60 minutes.
FDNY chief Rick Maglione, vice president of the union, said it was not an individual matter but that there were a number of contributing factors.
“The state changed the statute,” Maglione said. “So they tell us we need the vaccinations. We have technicians that have worked 10 hours to get the vaccines and they still weren’t available and we have a firefighter that we had a concern with the narcolepsy vaccination.”
Thousands of children received vaccine exemptions over the last year for certain vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, mumps and pertussis. In 2015, 24,000 children did not have to go through the customary vaccination procedure, which gave the individuals the freedom to avoid inoculations at home if they chose.
It seems the mandatory requirement would not apply to those who do not have health insurance.
“We tried to be reasonable,” said DiPaola. “But since we have such a great health insurance plan – you see a card in the mail on a regular basis – but unfortunately, he has to do it on his own.”
Unions have been angry at the bill that gives young people the freedom to decline vaccines because some critics contend the vaccine can cause autism. In some countries, parents have been allowed to opt out of the MMR vaccine, which is also known as the measles, mumps and rubella, in the past.
The legislation came about after parents objected to the annual vaccination program known as herd immunity because there are limits to how often vaccinations must be given to reduce the risk of preventable illnesses.
As the vaccination law is still young, Local Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 1285 said it had not decided what action to take next.
For now, New York has 44 emergency medical services (EMS) responding to its 69 EMS outposts in Brooklyn and the Bronx.