Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that all municipal employees in New York City must get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October or be placed on unpaid leave.

The new mandate expands an existing policy that applied to New York City school staff and hospital workers. Approximately 160,000 additional employees are now required to get vaccinated, including police officers, fire fighters, and building inspectors. The city says 71% of the workers impacted by Wednesday’s announcement have already received at least one dose.

Previously, municipal employees could opt out of mandatory inoculation by taking weekly COVID-19 tests.

Workers who get their first jab between now and October 29th will receive an extra $500 in their paychecks, according to the mayor.

“We’ve lost a lot of our public employees. We’ve lost a lot of people who serve us,” de Blasio said during an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday morning. “We’ve got to protect them, we’ve got to protect each other.”

“There is no greater privilege than serving the people of New York City, and that privilege comes with a responsibility to keep yourself and your community safe,” de Blasio added in a statement.

Harry Nespoli, who heads both the sanitation department’s union and a larger umbrella group that connects municipal unions across the city, said he plans on filing a lawsuit to block the new mandate, according to POLITICO.

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, expressed a similar sentiment: “Now that the city has moved to unilaterally impose a mandate, we will proceed with legal action to protect our members’ rights.” 

Corrections officers at Rikers Island will have an extra month to comply with the mandate – there is currently a worker shortage there.

The New York Times provides additional context:

…vaccination rates vary among city agencies. The Department of Corrections has the lowest vaccination rate, with only 50 percent of workers having received at least one dose of a vaccine as of last week, according to city data. The second lowest rate is at the city’s housing authority, where 58 percent of employees are vaccinated.

The city’s fire department, emergency medical services and sanitation workers have similar vaccination rates among their employees; only about 60 percent have received at least one dose. The city’s police department has a somewhat higher rate of vaccination, with 69 percent of its workers having received at least one dose.

The vaccine mandate for Department of Education employees led to a vaccination rate of more than 96 percent among teachers. And a statewide vaccination mandate for hospital and nursing home workers led vaccination rates in those industries to jump to 92 percent as of the Sept. 27 vaccination deadline, and higher since then.