Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A requirement that all teachers at New York City public schools be vaccinated against COVID-19 took effect Monday -- and although more than 90% have received at least one dose, officials are looking to find replacements for those who haven't.
The mandate, the first in New York City for any group of workers, applies to more than 150,000 employees. By Monday, about 72,000 of the city's 78,000 teachers had met the requirement.
To cover for unvaccinated educators, officials were looking for 3,700 substitute teachers.
The vaccine mandate was announced on Aug. 23 and required all public school employees to have their first shot by last Friday, or face suspension without pay. An effort by a group of teachers to block the mandate failed when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to refer the case to the high court.
The United Federation of Teachers said fewer than 4,000 of its members remained unvaccinated, mostly in Staten Island.
Some employees rushed to get vaccinated at the last minute, The New York Times reported. More than 18,000 shots have been given since Sept. 24.
Unvaccinated employees will be allowed to return to work after getting their first shot. Those who don't will be placed on unpaid leave. Religious or medical exemptions have been granted to about 500 employees.
"The bottom line is this mandate has worked," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNBC last week. "And the goal was to protect kids, including our youngest kids who can't be vaccinated yet, and to ensure that families knew schools would be safe."
De Blasio touted mandates for all public employees and for indoor diners, saying vaccinations in New York City have risen 45%.
"I would urge every mayor in America: Do it now," he added. "Get those vaccine mandates in place ahead of cold weather, when things are going to get tougher. Do it now, or you will regret it later. We need these mandates to keep us safe."