More than half of the FDNY firefighters who answered an internal survey said they won't take the coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available to first responders in a couple of weeks, the union representing New York City's firefighters said over the weekend.
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said of the 2,053 firefighters surveyed in recent days, roughly 55 percent said they would not get the vaccine. Ansbro believes a large number of the firefighters resistant to the vaccine share concerns of trying a new vaccine or have limited information of its effectiveness.
"You also have to keep in mind that 35 percent of New York City firefighters have been infected and have overcome the virus. A lot of these members feel that they have antibodies and are not an at-risk category," Ansbro said at a press conference Sunday.
The surveyed firefighters represent approximately a quarter of the union's overall membership.
An internal FDNY memo obtained by NBC News last week told firefighters to prepare for the first vaccine in a matter of weeks.
The memo, issued by Commissioner Daniel Nigro and the Chief of Department stresses that the vaccine either from Moderna or Pfizer will “NOT” be mandatory “but the Department recommends that members consider the overall health benefits.”
"As a union we are encouraging our members to get the vaccine but we are defending their right to make that choice," Ansbro said. "I personally feel this vaccine is safe, I've done my own research, I will be getting the vaccine and I will be encouraging other members to do so. In the end, it is their own personal choice."
The FDNY, particularly the paramedics and EMTs, were particularly hard hit by the virus this spring with as many as 1 in 4 medics out sick during the height of the pandemic (so far) in NYC.
The Department also handled a record 6,500+ 911 calls for nearly a week as hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 exploded citywide.