Unvaccinated teachers, health care workers lament loss of employment

If you're a New York City school teacher or a state health care worker and didn't get the coronavirus vaccine, you're now out of a job after a COVID-19 vaccination mandate recently went into effect.

Tom Wiermann taught health and physical education at M.S. 101 in the Bronx for the past two decades. Even though the Long Island native was willing to get tested weekly, without vaccination, he's out of a job.

"I have COVID antibodies and we know natural immunities are stronger than vaccinated immunity yet I'm not allowed to teach," he said.

The CDC is urging everyone regardless of whether they've had COVID to get the vaccine as it will create a better immune response to the delta variant. According to city officials, 95% of the 150,000 employees at the city's Department of Education have been vaccinated. Those like Tom who aren't vaccinated were placed on unpaid leave. The same goes for healthcare workers.

Stephanie Touchet was an orthopedic associate at Orlin & Cohen, an affiliate of Northwell Health. She is one of 1,400 employees fired for refusing to comply with a state and systemwide requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The 39-year-old cited religious and medical exemptions as reasons why she chose not to vaccinate.

"I have two children I have to provide for," she said. "Luckily enough I put money aside."

According to state health data, 87% of hospital workers in New York were completely inoculated as of Sept. 29.

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Northwell, which employs more than 76,000 people, said in a statement that vaccinating all of its employees would allow the provider to "provide exceptional care at all of our hospitals, without interruption and enable all our facilities to remain open and fully operational."

Dr. Matthew Harris, medical director for the COVID-19 vaccine program at Northwell Health, is encouraging everyone to get the vaccine unless they have a life-threatening allergy to it or any of its components.

"Major religions of the world including the Catholic Church have come out in support of the vaccine," he said. "They are safe, effective vaccines and they're really important to get."