More than half of New York City firefighters say they won’t be vaccinated for COVID-19 when the potentially life-saving shot becomes available to first responders in a matter of weeks, according to a new internal survey.
About 55 percent of 2,053 smoke-eaters polled in the last three days by their union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, answered “No” when asked, “Will you get the COVID-19 Vaccine from Pfizer when the Department makes it available?” UFA President Andy Ansbro told The Post. The responses account for about 25 percent of the UFA’s 8,200 active members.
The stunning anti-vax response follows an August survey of MTA workers that showed only 30 percent of 645 respondents were definitely willing to be vaccinated. Thirty-eight percent were unsure and 32 percent said they would not take the vaccine, according to the poll of Transport Workers Union members conducted by the NYU School of Global Public Health.
If the survey results become the reality, it would mean thousands of NYC’s first responders and other essential frontline workers would continue to be vulnerable to the virus and remain potential spreaders.
The FDNY announced last week it would not make the vaccine mandatory for its members, a policy expected to be followed by all city agencies and even hospitals.
The data comes as Trump pandemic advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that most healthy Americans should not expect to be vaccinated before the spring, as the first shots are rolled out to health care workers, the elderly and the medically vulnerable.
“A healthy non-elderly person with no recognizable underlying conditions, will likely start . . . in the end of March, early April. Once you get into April, probably full blast with those individuals,” Fauci said during a CNN town hall Friday — the same day the city reported positive coronavirus test results doubled in the past month.
Among firefighters, positive tests have tripled during that time, according to an FDNY source, who said that as of Friday there were more than 130 positive cases in the department’s ranks. At least six firehouses have three or more cases.
Vaccine acceptance is a matter of trust, it seems.
NYU researchers said of the reluctant transit workers, “The main reason for not taking it or being unsure was the lack of trust in its safety.” 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 wrote.
Many healthy firefighters in their 30s and 40s have become less fearful of the virus as they’ve overcome it themselves or know of colleagues who bounced back after a diagnosis, Ansbro said.
“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.”
Ansbro said he plans to receive it himself.
EMS workers, who will be among the FDNY members to receive the vaccine early, have also been vocal in their skepticism, according to Oren Barzilay, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors union.
“A few are anxious to get it, but there have been a few dozen responses saying, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” Barzilay said of online chatter. “They were thankful it was not mandatory, because they don’t want to be looked at as test subjects.”
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