The Department of Correction’s coronavirus vaccination rate has been stagnant for more than two weeks — with nearly half of the agency’s uniformed workforce still holding off on getting their shots despite a looming mandate deadline.
City Hall data released Tuesday shows that only 63% of Correction Department staff have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s the same vaccination rate the department had on Oct. 31 and the lowest by far of all municipal agencies.
When only accounting for uniformed Correction Department staff — the majority of which are the correction officers tasked with guarding inmates on Rikers Island — the one-dose vaccination rate is just 57%, according to the latest data.
Mayor de Blasio’s vaccination mandate for the Correction Department is set to take effect on Dec. 1, sparking fears that thousands of the department’s roughly 8,400 uniformed staff could be suspended at a time when Rikers is already in crisis due to overcrowding, staffing shortages and violence. An unprecedented number of correction officers calling in sick to work fueled the emergency over the summer, though the number of sick-calls have recently diminished.
Benny Boscio, the president of the union representing city correction officers, said mandate-related suspensions could be a recipe for disaster.
“We still have officers working triple shifts with no meals and rest every day,” Boscio said. “To move forward with placing what little staff we do have on leave by Dec. 1 would be like pouring gasoline on a fire, which will have a catastrophic impact on the safety of our officers and the thousands of inmates in our custody.”