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Vaccine mandate & exemptions

COVID-19 vaccine


Vaccine & testing requirements

What are the requirements for school staff to be vaccinated?

The city gave all DOE employees until Friday, Oct. 1, to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Employees had to provide proof of this first vaccine dose through the DOE’s Vaccination Portal. Employees who did not have an approved exemption and did not submit proof of vaccination were removed from payroll and placed automatically on unpaid leave starting Oct. 4.  The mandate applies to per diem employees and all contracted employees who work in DOE buildings. It does not apply to school bus drivers or DOE staff working in 3K and preschools located in non-DOE buildings. 

Now that the city has lifted the school mask mandate, is the vaccine mandate for staff changing?

No. All requirements for staff vaccinations remain the same.

I received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before the city's deadline. By what date must I receive my second dose? 

If you were recently vaccinated due to the vaccine mandate and received one dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), the deadline for getting your second shot was 45 days after Oct. 4 (which is Nov. 18) or 45 days after your first shot, whichever was later. You must upload your updated proof of vaccination showing both doses were received to the DOE’s Vaccination Portal by Friday, March 11, 2022 or the DOE will terminate your employment. 

Wasn't a temporary restraining order issued against the city's vaccine mandate? 

The temporary restraining order was lifted and a federal appeals panel upheld the city's vaccine mandate on Sept. 27. The city extended the deadline to Oct. 1 for the mandate to take effect.

How can I submit proof of my COVID-19 vaccination? What documentation is acceptable?

You must submit proof of vaccination using the DOE’s Vaccination Portal. Your information will be kept confidential. Proof of vaccination can be an image of your vaccination card, the New York State Excelsior Pass or other government record.

If you are granted a religious or medical exemption or are awaiting the result of an appeal, and are therefore not required to be vaccinated, must you continue to be tested for COVID-19?

School staff who were granted a religious or medical exemption were placed in a non-school DOE building as of Monday, Oct. 4. At this point, they are being tested twice weekly until such time as they are vaccinated and can return to a school building.

Medical & religious exemptions

How would I qualify for a permanent medical exemption from taking the COVID-19 vaccine?

Permanent medical exemptions to the vaccine mandate are only considered where the individual has a documented allergic reaction such that the member cannot receive any of the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines. The deadline for submitting a request for a permanent medical exemption  was Sept. 20.

Temporary medical exemptions may also be granted to those who may need to delay taking the vaccine, such as those undergoing specific medical treatments or who recently were diagnosed with COVID-19 (see below).  These conditions must be documented in writing by a medical doctor. The documentation must include a diagnosis. 

I recently had COVID-19 and cannot take the vaccine before the Oct. 1 deadline. Will I lose my job if I cannot get vaccinated right now?

Requests for a temporary medical exemption had to be submitted on SOLAS to delay taking the vaccine. Documentation from a medical provider was required along with a diagnosis. 

Temporary exemptions may be granted:

  • within the isolation period after a positive COVID diagnosis
  • within 90 days of monoclonal antibody treatment of COVID-19

Under updated Department of Health guidance, if you have been granted a temporary medical exemption after being treated with monoclonal antibodies, you are permitted (but not required) to work in a school building during this 90-day period, as long as your isolation period has ended and you are not symptomatic.  If you wish to work in person, you should inform your principal/supervisor. If there are any questions on your eligibility to work in person while not yet vaccinated, your principal or supervisor can contact the Office of Disability Accommodations at

I am undergoing a medical treatment that prevents me from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine right now. Will I lose my job if I cannot get vaccinated before the deadline?

Members who are undergoing active therapy or treatment, such as chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, or CAR T-cell therapy, or who have pericarditis or myocarditis, may be eligible for a temporary medical exemption. The deadline was Sept. 20, 2021, for applying for a temporary medical exemption to delay taking the vaccine. The application had to be accompanied by documentation from a medical provider, including a diagnosis.

In cases where members sought exemptions for medical conditions not mentioned above, an independent arbitrator decided if the exemption was appropriate. Members are required to be vaccinated when the temporary condition is removed, such as when treatment has ended, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

I applied for a religious exemption from taking a COVID-19 vaccine and was denied an exemption. I appealed and was denied again. Do I have any recourse?

By court order, people who were denied a religious exemption, then appealed and were denied on appeal, may now re-appeal to a city-wide panel. This opportunity applies only to people who appealed and were denied.  Those who did not appeal or who never applied may not re-appeal.  People may not re-appeal on a medical basis. You should have received directions on how to go about applying through SOLAS. If you apply for such an appeal, and should it be denied, your time to select the extended leave will be extended to 7 days after receipt of the decision. You must apply for a second appeal by Friday, Dec 3. 

I was denied a medical exemption from taking the vaccine. Can I appeal this decision? Will I keep my job while the appeal is in progress?

If denied, the member had one school day to file a notice of appeal with additional time to submit supporting documentation. The appeal application was available via SOLAS. An independent arbitrator promptly reviewed the appeal—and convened a hearing if necessary—before issuing a final determination. During the appeal process, the member was temporarily granted the exemption and kept on payroll. If you filed an appeal and have had difficulty or other issues regarding this process, call the UFT appeals hotline at 646-770-1917.

How can I qualify for a religious exemption for the DOE vaccine mandate?

Exemption requests are considered only for members who belong to recognized and established religious organizations and not where the objection is personal, political or philosophical in nature. Applications for religious exemptions must be documented in writing by clergy or a religious official.

Medical accommodations

How would I qualify for a medical accommodation this school year? Where would I work if I am granted an accommodation?

Vaccinated UFT members with weakened immune systems due to a documented medical condition had until Sept. 20 to apply for a medical accommodation. The documentation needed to include a diagnosis. If the accommodation was approved, the immunocompromised member had to be offered work that meets their medical needs, possibly in a non-school building, for as long as their medical condition lasts.

Leaves and severance option

I am pregnant. Would I be eligible for an exemption?

UFT members in their last trimester of pregnancy, whether vaccinated or not, had the option to go on leave effective Oct 4. First, members had to exhaust their CAR days. If the member exhausts their CAR days before giving birth, the member can decide to start their six weeks of paid parental leave (if eligible) early. Members in their first two trimesters of pregnancy must be vaccinated if they want to remain on payroll.

I do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine but also do not qualify for an exemption from the mandate. Will I lose my job?

Members who were not vaccinated by Oct. 1 but did not qualify for a medical accommodation or an exemption were placed by the DOE on leave without pay effective Oct. 4, 2021, through Nov. 30, 2021. Once placed on leave, the member was offered two options, both of which include one year's health coverage.

Option 1 - Unpaid Leave 

  • The DOE automatically put you on this leave starting Oct. 4 if you did not have at least one dose of the COVID‑19 vaccine
  • By Nov. 30, you must get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or inform the DOE that if you will extend the leave until Sept. 5, 2022.
  • You will have medical coverage until Sept. 5, 2022.
  • Your position will be held at your school until Sept. 5, 2022.
  • You may not work elsewhere while on this leave.
  • You will not qualify for unemployment while on this leave because you are still an employee of the DOE. The leave status is what allows your position to be held if you choose to return.
  • If you are not vaccinated by Sept. 5, 2022, and the vaccine mandate is still in effect, you will be automatically deemed voluntarily resigned from the DOE.
  • If at any time between now and the end of the school year you choose to become vaccinated, you may come off the leave and return to work.

Option 2 - Severance 

  • You must decide by Oct. 28 if you are taking this severance option and resign from the DOE.
  • You will receive 1:1 compensation for your CAR days (up to 100 days) but these days will not be pensionable time.
  • You will receive medical insurance until Sept. 5, 2022, as long as you do not have access to other health insurance coverage during that period.
  • Taking severance will be considered an involuntary and non-disciplinary departure for unemployment purposes.
  • You will not be prevented from returning to work with the DOE in the future; however, you will have to find a position — you are not guaranteed the right to return to your school.
  • You can seek and take employment opportunities elsewhere.

I am currently unvaccinated and therefore will be on an unpaid leave as of Oct. 4. If I decide to get vaccinated later on, can I be reinstated into my position?

If you are vaccinated before Nov. 30, 2021, while on unpaid leave, you will have a right of return to the same school no later than one week after submitting your vaccination record to the DOE. By Nov. 30, you must get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or inform the DOE that you will extend the leave until Sept. 5, 2022. If you receive your vaccination after Nov. 30, 2021 but before Sept. 5, 2022, you will have a right of return to the same school no later than two weeks after submitting your vaccination record to the DOE. If you take the severance option and resign from your position, there is no expedited route to return if you later decide to get vaccinated.