A few weeks ago, there was a huge uproar over vaccine mandates for all New York City employees. There was the uproar from those who were resistant to the vaccines, and then there was the outcry from those worried about how government services would deteriorate without a portion of the workforce around due to the mandates.
But there’s a different outcry that should happen, yet I don’t see happening.
There should be outcry over the fact that, across the United States, the government workers doing the least to protect themselves and others from the virus (at least in terms of getting vaccinated) are in many cases the ones who work with some of the most vulnerable populations.
I observed in one of my COVID update blog posts a few weeks ago that the government agencies with the lowest vaccine rates in my city at the time were many of the ones serving the most vulnerable populations; namely, agencies serving those in legal trouble (police), those in jail, those with fires, those who are homeless, and those who are in public housing. At the time, I bemoaned the fact that the media wasn’t picking up on this.
However, one thing even I didn’t pick up fully until another friend alerted me to this was that my observation about unvaccinated government workers in New York City was a microcosm of what we’ve been seeing nationwide. Throughout the United States, it is government employees who are working with many of the most vulnerable in society who are often also the most resistant to getting vaccinated. In Chicago, it was reported a few weeks into their own mandate that their police and fire departments had the lowest vaccination rates. In numerous states, it’s been reported that prison inmates are getting vaccinated at higher rates than the corrections officers who work with them (with some states having extremely low vaccine rates among their corrections officers)! Vaccine resistance among government workers who work with the most vulnerable in our society is not just a New York City issue, but seemingly a nationwide one.
This is a fact that I find troubling, and a fact that I think a lot of us should find troubling as well. We want the people who serve the most vulnerable to do all they can to keep themselves and others healthy, and the science shows that getting a COVID vaccine is the best way to do that, plain and simple. So when those serving the most vulnerable decide, in many cases, not to get vaccinated, and in the process make themselves and others (particularly others these people interact with who are in vulnerable situations) more vulnerable to this virus, it is something that is extremely problematic. And I hear very little media coverage of this.
Even though it’s something media hasn’t covered, I hope this gets more attention, because once it gets more attention, it will hopefully lead to a more aggressive, sustained push in some municipalities for government workers to get vaccinated. It’s important for this to happen, for the sakes of those most vulnerable, and by extension, the entire society at large.