NYC Bus And Subway Workers Record Lowest COVID-19 Vaccination Rate At MTA

Despite suffering from the highest number of COVID deaths at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, subway and bus workers have the lowest vaccination rate of its employees.

Just 37% of workers at New York City Transit, the MTA Bus Company, and Staten Island Railway have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the authority’s recordkeeping. The MTA said it only keeps tabs of staff who receive shots during work hours or who self-report taking a dose elsewhere in the city.

New York City Transit comprises the MTA’s largest workforce with 50,696 employees. Only 18,980 of them have taken one dose. COVID-19 has killed 162 people at the MTA to date, and 151 of those deaths involved subway and bus workers. Transit workers were among the earliest groups to be eligible for the vaccine in January.

The MTA’s Construction & Development agency ranks highest with vaccination with 73%—or 1,362 out of 1,806 workers–being at least partially vaccinated. More than half the employees at MTA headquarters, which includes its police officers and MetroNorth staff, have received one shot. Long Island Railroad sports a rate of 46% while the Bridge and Tunnels department is at 48%.

To incentivize the shots, the MTA launched a program early on that pays its union employees for two-hours wages each shot they take. The authority also offers appointments for all employees at its headquarters in downtown Brooklyn, the Javits Center and the Long Island Railroad Jamaica Control Center—and it even enlisted White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci to record a message of encouragement for its staff.

MTA employee receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the Jacob K. Javits Center, January 13th, 2021.

MTA employee receives the COVID-19 vaccine, January 13th, 2021. Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

This week, the NYPD came under scrutiny for its low level of vaccinations when The Washington Post reported that 39% of officers had received one shot.

The New York City Department of Education reports that about 44% of its workforce is at least partially vaccinated, although a spokesperson notes, “these totals do not include staff who are not New York City residents or who were vaccinated at sites outside of New York City such as Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

This data arrives as the city announced this week it would be trying inventive new ways to get residents vaccinated. For example, offering free tickets to a baseball game if people get a vaccine at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal is to vaccinate 5 million New Yorkers by July 1st, but as of Thursday only 3.7 million New Yorkers had received one shot.

The MTA and Transport Workers Union didn’t provide comments on why the vaccination rate of transit workers lags behind the rest of the agency’s employees, as well as the city’s tally.