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As COVID Vaccine Mandate Takes Effect, Approximately 8,000 DOE Employees Out Of 148,000 Remain Unvaccinated

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City's mandate requiring all public school employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 took effect Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said 95% of full-time workers have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

"As of today, all the employees in our 1,600 schools are vaccinated, and that is unprecedented," said de Blasio, who added he is confident in how the city is handling the mandate.

"Ninety-five percent of all full-time DOE employees are vaccinated, 96% of all teachers, 99% of all principals," de Blasio said.

Approximately 8,000 out of all 148,000 DOE employees, 3,000 out of 78,000 teachers and 12 out of 1,600 principals are unvaccinated. Most were replaced with substitutes, CBS2's John Dias reported.

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio's Daily Briefing On COVID In NYC

Unvaccinated teachers who were turned away at their schools joined a rally against the mayor's vaccine mandate. Thousands marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall with a message. As other anti-vaxxers joined the march, it got destructive. Some even flipped over a COVID-19 testing tent in Union Square.

But while they were making a lot of noise, they are still very much in the minority, reported CBS2's Jessica Layton.

"I refused to get vaccinated," said Stefanie Deliteris, a paraprofessional.

Deliteris is now feeling the consequences of refusing the shot.

"My husband is a custodian and we have both lost our jobs. He has worked through the entire pandemic, cleaning every single COVID room," Deliteris said. "Now we're both out of work. We were essential last year and now we're just zeroes this year."

Thousands of other DOE staff members who won't get vaccinated feel her frustration.

"I feel very insulted. Over seven years, I've been working as a teacher and I really love my job. I didn't want to leave and I'm being forced to leave because of my choice," said teacher Michellene Barrett.

Watch John Dias' Report

Even before Bronx high school history teacher Stephanie Edmonds attempted to show up for work, she knew she'd be told to go home. She's been fighting the vaccine rules for weeks.

"I did send in a lesson today for whoever's going to be in there to give out to the kids," Edmonds said.

"I missed my kids, yes. It was so sad to have to say goodbye to them Friday. It shouldn't have happened," teacher Gina Pilotti added.

Although the mayor said close to 1,000 teachers finally got their shots over the weekend, the city had thousands of vaccinated substitutes ready to step in Monday morning.

Students at New Dorp High School on Staten Island will be missing 20 of their usual staff.

"A benefit of being the largest district in the nation is that we have the largest village of dedicated adults prepared to step up for our young people," said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter.

Contributing to the overwhelming majority of vaccinated DOE staff, the vaccination rate at Lower Manhattan Community Middle Schools in 100%.

"I'm really really glad that this school year, we can continue to grow and be somewhat normal," said Joshua Ng, who teaches eighth grade science. "Whatever normal is in a pandemic."

WATCH: NYC Teachers Union Shares Latest On Vaccine Mandate

Unvaccinated staff members were all welcome at the rally, but others watching the protest didn't understand why they are fighting so hard against something that could ultimately keep them and their students alive.

"For us to get back to any kind of normalcy, the vaccine to me is the way to go," said a woman who's a nurse.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the last-minute scramble could've been avoided if the vaccine mandate was announced in the summer.

"Chaotic would be the nice way of putting it," Mulgrew said.

Mulgrew wouldn't say if he's confident that substitute teachers will successfully fill the gaps. He's particularly worried about staffing at the citywide District 75 schools, which serve students with special needs.

"Where we have some of our most challenging students who really need a lot of help and support... That was the area of concern throughout Saturday and yesterday... especially on the southern tip of Staten Island," Mulgrew said.

Lack of school safety agents is also a major problem -- 695 are still unvaccinated -- so some schools are left with just one.

"We were short almost 1,500 school safety agents going into the school year. So this just compounded the entire problem that we were already facing," said Mulgrew.

Although the deadline for vaccination was Friday, the union said it's being told staff members still have time to get vaccinated and keep their jobs. But that offer won't be on the table forever.

According to the union, 3,000 members submitted exemptions. About 1,000 were approved, mostly for medical reasons.

CBS2's John Dias and Jessica Layton contributed to this report. This story first appeared on October 4, 2021. 

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