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Outbreaks of pneumococcal disease have hit New York more than other states in recent months
Hundreds of New York City correction officers will be suspended or fired after the Department of Correction did not meet a deadline to provide mandatory vaccines for employees.
Of 826 corrections officers who were at risk of becoming infected with pneumococcal disease and other disease, 470 will be suspended without pay, with 150 others potentially being fired.
New York is one of 21 states and Washington DC that have no mandatory immunisation requirements for correctional employees. New York’s Department of Health required public and private childcare providers to provide all staff with immunisations by July 2017.
The virus is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults and can become life-threatening if left untreated.
The number of prison and detention facility outbreaks of the disease has hit New York more than other states in recent months.
The New York City department of correction is reviewing 1,458 workers who were not provided with the recommended vaccination plan, as part of an effort by the department’s department of public health to protect staff.
Pneumococcal disease is transmitted through the transfer of germs, including from unwashed hands. Infections can also be caused by prolonged or chronic immunosuppression.
The bacteria potentially can be spread on clothing and equipment, however, it does not spread through direct contact.
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Children, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions are advised to receive a recommended vaccination plan, which is no more than 10 weeks old, before beginning employment. The pneumococcal vaccine is given in doses that last three to five weeks.
Employees may not be immunised with their work benefits because they are part of an “acute care rehabilitation unit”. Some health services offered to patients in these units need unvaccinated staff.
A court approved the required vaccination plan after the workers’ civil rights were violated. In this case, the issue was not that the prison workers could infect others, but that they weren’t given the vaccine before they started work.
The successful legal process was set up by the New York City Correction Officers Benevolent Association, which represents 9,700 correction officers. The union also sued the city of New York for $1.3bn in a class-action, alleging that its members are under-vaccinated.
The department announced in August that it would expand the vaccinations, but only a small number of the officers were initially covered. The department is also reviewing plans for separate vaccines for child care workers.