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Misinformation on ‘herd immunity’ used in defense of firefighters union executive against COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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What happens when the first responder employed to save your life is at risk of exposure to a deadly virus?

The FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association held a press conference on October 20 to announce that it not only supports firefighters who refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but also exclaimed that it is also anti- mandate. The news came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an order requiring all city employees to receive at least the first dose of the vaccine by 5 p.m. on October 29, or be sent home without pay until what they do.

“I represent 20,000 active and retired firefighters in New York City. I am here to speak on behalf of the 3,500 other New York firefighters who are unvaccinated, 45% of all firefighters in New York today are unvaccinated, ”said Andrew Ansbro, president of FDNY- UFA, Wednesday afternoon.

Ansbro then launched a series of scientifically unfounded claims, such as the belief that the department has achieved collective immunity since the vast majority of firefighters have already contracted the new coronavirus.

“More than 70% of New York City firefighters have been sick with COVID in the past 20 months. And at the moment, 45% are not vaccinated. We at UFA have always been pro-vaccines, but we are also pro-choice and anti-mandate. Since the start of the pandemic, we have all been told that our salvation will come when we achieve collective immunity. I’m here to say that after 55% of all limbs were vaccinated 75-70% got sick, New York firefighters achieved herd immunity, ”Ansbro said.

World Health Organization chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan explained herd immunity on the organization’s website, saying it can be achieved once a significant portion of the population is vaccinated, which would then reduce the ability to spread COVID-19. However, the organization also points out that while people infected with COVID-19 have been found to develop an immune response in the first few weeks, it is not clear how strong or long-lasting that response is. As well as how it differs from person to person. Additionally, there have been reports of people infected with COVID-19 for more than once.

“So even if 1% of those infected eventually die, that can be a huge number of people, if we look at the world population. And that’s why we think it’s not a good idea to try to get herd immunity by just letting the infection run wild in the population and infect a lot of people and we should talk about herd immunity. in the context of a vaccine, ”Dr. Swaminathan said in an interview in August 2020.

There are still many unknown factors of immunity to COVID-19, and the WHO organization believes that the best way to fight the disease is vaccination.

The Mayo Clinic also points out that herd immunity cannot be achieved if widespread reluctance to vaccinate occurs, as this allows a contagious disease to continue to spread.

Bobby Eustache. Photo by Dean Moses

Those of the UFA think differently. They believe they achieved herd immunity through their group of workers’ past encounters with the disease, a misconception of the concept of herd immunity, which focuses on a global population and not a small group.

Sensing that they are on the front line risking their daily lives, the UFA seemed to believe that they should be exempted from the mandate.

“So far, we haven’t extinguished a single fire via Zoom, we haven’t done CPR via zoom, not once of the 300,000 city employees who have gone to work, the airline quotes work. We have been here every day. Not via zoom, not timed from the sofa, come to work, day in and day out ”, Bobby Eustace, vice president of FDNY-UFA.

While promised the FDNY would report for work, President Ansbro feared the tenure would result in firefighters being sent home and fire stations closed.

During his daily press briefing on Wednesday, de Blasio ignored suggestions that the warrant would result in massive absences among first responders. He said a similar mandate imposed on San Francisco allowed 95% of first responders to be vaccinated.

“What I think is evident from many conversations with the heads of all of our agencies in uniform is that people are there to do a job and they believe in work. Plus, they’re there for a paycheck, of course. It’s a noble profession, but people want to be paid, and they want to accumulate time for this very, very important pension that they will receive later, and people are not going to give it up basically, ”said de Blasio. . “So our message is simple: get vaccinated, stay with us, keep moving. Anyone who is not, will go on unpaid leave. We have obviously put contingency measures in place for any shortcomings we encounter, but our agency leaders in uniform are confident that they will be able to handle any scenario.


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