The 12 firehouses evacuated last week over city plan to remove students from schools that have insufficient immunization rates will not reopen until Friday
A mandatory vaccination rule affecting students in public New York City schools has closed some firehouses and forced the reassignment of 22 firefighters in the City of New York.
There were no injuries as a result of the Wednesday protest at FDNY headquarters, but multiple firehouses close to schools have been closed over the last two weeks.
The 12 firehouses evacuated last week over the city plan to remove students from schools that have insufficient immunization rates will not reopen until Friday.
“As a precaution, this afternoon all twelve firehouses were evacuated,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro in a Friday night statement. “Due to the extensive disruption at those firehouses, we will hold off reopening until this morning so that we can try to support public safety.”
Three FDNY firefighters were punished for a protest last week as well, Nigro said in a statement that specifically mentioned “inciting protests and disrupting the workings of the fire department”. All firefighters involved will face internal disciplinary action.
The mobilization of both sides’ outrage comes with the outbreak of measles at an all-time high in the United States. The outbreak is centered at two NYC schools where students have received only half or none of their required vaccines for the mandated schedule. While the number of cases has tapered off in the last few days, measles is still at the highest number it has been since 2008.
Some parents say their vaccine information comes from sites created by anti-vaxxers and think they know better than doctors and nurses about what’s best for their kids. For more coverage of the debate over vaccines, see the coverage by Reese Erlich in the Observer.
On Tuesday, 47 members of the Sergeants Benevolent Association joined the 12 firefighters in their fight for mandatory vaccinations. A statement released by the union said: “We also witnessed an abhorrent disruption of work by workers in a building with children inside, due to the arrest of four members of the Sergeants Benevolent Association and others demonstrating for vaccines for children in New York City schools.”
Their comments referred to a sit-in staged at the NYPD’s 1 Police Plaza earlier this month. During that protest, five off-duty NYPD officers were arrested when they failed to leave when a police order to do so was given.
On Monday night, Senate president Bill Perkins (D-NY) introduced a bill mandating vaccination for schoolchildren. Unlike the current administration’s move to a vaccine mandate in New York City, Perkins’ proposal would provide exceptions for medical reasons, but not for religious reasons. The bill would also allow for up to one week of school prior to kindergarten without a vaccination for every child a parent wants to enroll.
“The parents need to understand that if you are coming to school with children who are unvaccinated, that we know that diseases aren’t just going to go away,” said Perry Breault, a specialist in child infectious diseases at Harlem Children’s Zone.
Breault doesn’t advocate for high vaccination rates, but doesn’t want to see children who cannot be vaccinated face increased risk of serious illness. “I’m not calling for it to be at 100%, but I’m calling for it to be at best 75-80%, and we don’t want to create those underagers with diseases like measles and whooping cough.”