FDNY won’t require medics, firefighters to get COVID vaccine

FDNY won't require medics, firefighters to get COVID vaccine

New York City medics and firefighters will be among the first in line for the new COVID-19 vaccines as early as mid-December — but they will not be required to take it.

The FDNY told its members, including Emergency Medical Service workers, in an internal order Friday that it would soon provide the eagerly-awaited vaccine to first responders.

“Vaccination will NOT be mandatory, but the Department recommends that members consider the overall benefits,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and Chief of Department John Sudnik wrote in the order, obtained by The Post.

One veteran FDNY member said the lack of a mandate was putting the public at risk.

“Unvaccinated first-responders have the potential for being carriers, and therefore can infect others — in the firehouse … to the public at large, including our most vulnerable citizens,” the member said.

He added, “The public has no way of knowing who took the vaccine and who didn’t. You could be Typhoid Mary … Imagine a crew going into a nursing home, and three or four are not vaccinated. They could spread it to everybody and kill people.”

The FDNY and City Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for their vaccine, which was said to be 95 percent effective, on Nov. 20. A decision is expected early next month.

Distribution guidelines are still being finalized. A vote by a CDC advisory committee is expected Tuesday. Right now the three levels of government — the feds, city and state — do not appear to be exactly on the same page.

Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, has said the government will likely recommend that the shot go first to nursing home residents and then to healthcare workers.

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine."

Under the state’s vaccine distribution plan, health care workers,  including EMTs and paramedics, will get top priority to receive the shots along with nursing home residents and those who care for them. The next phase of distribution will include first responders like firefighters and police officers.

The city’s plan is focusing first on a “phase 1a” with health care workers and then a “phase 1b” with those older than 65, nursing home residents and essential workers.

Dr. David Battinelli, the chief medical officer at Northwell Health, the state’s largest hospital network, said it would not initially mandate that employees get a vaccine that had only received emergency approval. Formal FDA approval could come in two or three months.

“It will be entirely their choice,” he said.

Battinelli said he imagined staff would want the shot, and that the hospital had enough freezers on hand to properly store the vaccine, which must be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re fully prepared to distribute the vaccine,” he said.