Vaccine mandates

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Imposes Vaccine Mandate for all Private Employers

The mayor also said that children aged 5–11 will have to be vaccinated in order to go to restaurants or engage in "high-risk" extracurricular activities.


New York City is once again ratcheting up its vaccine mandates, this time with a requirement that all private sector workers in the city receive at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses.

"We in New York City have decided to use a preemptive strike, to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it's causing to all of us," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in an MSNBC interview this morning.

The mayor said this "first-in-the-nation" mandate was necessary to get ahead of the new omicron variant, and head off a potential winter surge of the delta variant.

The order itself has yet to be released, so it's not clear what the sanctions will be for those not in compliance. The city's health commissioner, Dave A. Chokshi, says that guidance for businesses will be coming next week.

Chokshi said the city will also require those aged 5–11 to have at least one vaccine shot in order to enter restaurants and other public venues. The city will also now require people aged 12 and up to get at least two doses of the vaccine to enter these places. Previously, people aged 12 and over only needed one shot to go to restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues, and anyone younger didn't need to be vaccinated at all.

Children aged 5–11 will also need to be vaccinated in order to participate in "high-risk" extracurricular activities like sports, band, and orchestra. Previously, only those aged 12 and up had to have their shots.

Eight cases of the omicron variant have been reported in New York state as of Saturday, reports The Guardian. According to data culled by The New York Times, there are 3,500 hospitalized COVID-positive patients in the state, a 34 percent increase from two weeks ago. The seven-day average for daily deaths has crept up slightly to 47, an increase from the 35 or so seven-day average New York had been posting since September.

As with a lot of preemptive strikes, it's not entirely clear how effective de Blasio's new order will be at its stated goal.

For starters, New York City is already one of the most vaccinated places in the world. Nearly 90 percent of the adult population has received at least one COVID-19 shot and 82 percent have received at least two shots.

The vaccination rate for children aged 5–17 is much lower (only 35 percent have received a full vaccine regimen). But children are also at a much lower risk from COVID-19. In New York City, 24 of the 30,646 reported COVID-involved deaths since the start of the pandemic were in children below the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) data. That's slightly fewer than the 29 children who died of pneumonia in the city.

The law of diminishing returns suggests that coercing the vaccination rate up to 85 or 90 percent won't make some massive difference in the number of people who come down with COVID-19. That's particularly true in the case of this new omicron variant, given that we don't know how effective vaccines will be at preventing infection and transmission.

The CDC says that existing vaccines are likely to prevent "severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur."

Perversely enough, New York City policy makers seem to think that the higher the vaccination rate goes, the more expansive vaccine mandates need to become. Requirements that people get vaccinated in order to eat in restaurants have only gotten the city to an 82 percent full vaccination rate, so obviously a general private employer vaccine mandate is required to raise that number, the logic goes

That's an incredibly troubling approach to COVID-19 and one that will get more coercive the fewer unvaccinated people are left. Will a 95 percent vaccination rate be enough for the city to ease off the mandates? Or will that small remaining rump of the uninoculated necessitate a general vaccine requirement to finally get to universal vaccination?

It's not clear what the off-ramp is for de Blasio and his ilk. Increasingly, it seems like there isn't one.