Roughly 3,000 teachers, firefighters and other New York City workers face losing their jobs Friday after failing to get vaccinated against coronavirus by the city's deadline.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he would not change the rules, despite the city facing many days of protests since his predecessor announced the policy last year.
More than 95% of staff have complied.
Opponents say the requirements violate their freedom.
More protests are planned for Friday and opponents have filed numerous legal challenges, arguing, for example, that the rules violate protections against the free practice of religion.
But though the US Supreme Court last month struck down a national policy requiring vaccination or weekly tests for staff of large businesses, it has declined to take a stance against more localised requirements
New York City Mayor Eric Adams told a news conference it was not that the city was firing employees, but that "people are quitting".
Many of the 3,000 unvaccinated have been on unpaid leave since the mandate went into effect last autumn. Roughly 1,000 other employees, who were hired after the mandate was announced and had agreed to get the jabs, risk losing their positions Friday if they fail to submit proof of vaccination.
New York City - the epicentre of the pandemic when it first struck in 2020 - is not alone among US cities in insisting that public employees get the jabs, which experts say is the safest way to protect against infection.
San Francisco, Boston and Chicago are among the cities and states that have implemented similar rules, which typically allow staff to seek exemptions.
Many health workers also face the mandates as a result of state or national rules, while some large employers have also moved forward with mandates.
More than 85% of adults in New York City are fully vaccinated - compared to about 75% nationally - and more than half of eligible children.
But there are pockets of resistance. Roughly 13,000 people applied for exemptions from New York City's rules. The city has processed about half of those requests.
Former elementary school teacher Bonnie Skala Kiladitis, who has taught in Queens since 1993 and sits on the steering committee of the Teachers for Choice activist group, said she had applied four times on religious grounds, believing it should be her choice.
She said she's heard nothing about her employment status as of yet, but she's not optimistic.
"It's been a tough call but I'm absolutely confident in the decisions I made," the mother of two, 49, told the BBC. "You don't force people to do this."
"If it means I'm no longer going to be a teacher ... with sadness, so be it. I can't go against what I believe in," she said. "I have no intention of quitting. The DOE [Department of Education] is going to have to fire me."
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