New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that all public teachers and faculty staff will have to get a Covid vaccine this school year to ensure that educational establishments are “extraordinarily safe.”

The decision, revealed at a press conference on Monday, marks a policy change from the mayor’s previous rule that gave teachers, as well as other employees across the city, the option of either getting vaccinated or undergoing weekly tests.

De Blasio hailed the vaccine mandate as a way of ensuring schools are “extraordinarily safe” by providing what Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter described as “another layer of protection” for children and staff.

Despite announcing that teachers will be forced to get the vaccine, NYC’s mayor did not specify what penalty would be imposed on those who refuse to get the jab. Teachers who violated the previous rule were at risk of receiving an unpaid suspension.

President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew responded to the new vaccine mandate by accepting the need to keep “kids safe and the schools open,” but argued that medical exceptions should be available and called on de Blasio to work with the unions to resolve any concerns.  

The Covid vaccine mandate follows a similar policy imposed by outgoing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in July, who announced that all frontline healthcare workers at state-run hospitals will have to receive the jab by Labor Day, with no testing option provided.