A survey of firefighters with the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) found that more than half of respondents would refuse a coronavirus vaccine if offered.
Over 2,000 firefighters, a figure which equals about 25% of the department’s 8,000-strong force, responded to the poll, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) President Andrew Ansbro told the New York Post.
The poll asked firefighters, “Will you get the COVID-19 Vaccine from Pfizer when the Department makes it available?” with “Yes” or “No” answers.
Over 1,100 firefighters, or 54.7% of the total respondents, said they would not get the vaccine while 929, or 45.3%, said they would.
Luckily for those hesitant to receive the vaccine, the FDNY announced last week that it would not make the vaccine mandatory for its members, a policy expected to be followed by all city agencies, including hospitals.
What the Post calls a “stunning anti-vax response” follows an August survey of Metropolitan Transit Authority workers that showed just 30 percent of respondents were definitely willing to be vaccinated.
Thirty-eight percent were undecided and 32 percent said they would definitely not receive the vaccine, according to the poll of Transport Workers Union members conducted by the NYU School of Global Public Health.
“The main reason for not taking it or being unsure was the lack of trust in its safety,” said NYU researchers according to the Post. Respondents said “the main sources of trusted, reliable information included: personal healthcare provider, CDC, Governor Cuomo, and the TWU leadership.
“A sizeable portion said they no longer trust anyone,” researchers stated.
As for the reluctance of the city’s firefighters to take the vaccine, Ansbro suggests that they feel more comfortable with the risks of the virus versus the potential risks of the vaccine.
“A lot of them probably feel they are not in a risk category, they are younger, stronger, they may have already had it and gotten through it, and feel it’s not their problem,” Ansbro said.
“They are more familiar with the coronavirus than they are with the vaccine.”
It’s not just firefighters and public transit workers who are skeptical about the coronavirus vaccine — even the city’s EMS workers, who are on the short list to receive the vaccine early, have their doubts.
“A few are anxious to get it, but there have been a few dozen responses saying, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Oren Barzilay, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors union.
“They were thankful it was not mandatory, because they don’t want to be looked at as test subjects.”
“I personally am going to wait and see what the side effects are, what the independent studies show” before being vaccinated, Barzilay himself told the Post.
The widespread hesitancy to receive the vaccine is pushing some to call for it to be mandated after all.
“It may become necessary to require that certain individuals or communities be vaccinated, such as health care workers and students, to protect the public’s health,” said Mary Beth Morrissey, a research fellow at Fordham University and chair of the NYS Bar Association’s COVID-19 task force, in a statement calling for the state to make the vaccine mandatory.