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Friday, December 3, 2021

Philadelphia Announces COVID-19 Vaccine for All City Workers

By Laura McChrystal
From The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine

PHILADELPHIA. Officials said Friday that Philadelphia will require all of its more than 25,000 city workers to receive the coronavirus vaccine or risk losing their jobs.

In adopting the new policy, Philadelphia joined a number of other cities that had vaccinated and changed the old position that unvaccinated workers simply had to wear two masks at work.

“We have a responsibility to reduce harm that can arise from the unintentional transmission of COVID-19 to our colleagues and the public, and to set an example for other organizations and companies,” Mayor Jim Kenny said in a statement announcing the policy. “We owe our city – and ourselves – to do everything in our power to protect us all.”

While the city recently decreed that non-union employees must be fully vaccinated by December 1, the new policy will also apply to workers who are represented by the city’s four unions, as well as city contractors.

Beginning January 14, the policy provides for 15 days of unpaid leave for unvaccinated employees, and they will end by the end of that vacation if they have not yet been vaccinated. The city will have benefits for religious and medical reasons, but employees will not be allowed to simply refuse vaccinations.

But not all city employees are happy; The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents the city’s police force, threatened legal action on Friday because of its mandate. John McNesby, union president, said any mandate is subject to collective bargaining and said he would consider the matter before the contract arbitration panel.

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“FOP is consulting with an attorney about potential litigation in local, state or federal courts,” McNesby said.

According to city data, the city’s police department is among those with the lowest vaccination rates, with 51 to 60 percent of officers being fully vaccinated. And police unions opposed the introduction of the vaccine in other cities, having received the appropriate permission.

The Philadelphia Street Department has the lowest vaccination rate for urban workers, at 41 to 50 percent, according to city data. As of this week, the fire department has vaccination rates between 51 and 60 percent, and all other city departments have at least 60 percent of workers vaccinated.

Only a third of Philadelphia employees and half of Pennsylvania health workers reported being vaccinated.

Philadelphia has already established a mandate to vaccinate health workers and higher education institutions. But Health Commissioner Sherrill Bettigol previously supported the city’s decision not to require vaccinations for city employees. Instead, workers were required to wear two masks at work unless they voluntarily reported their vaccination status to the city.

© 2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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