San Francisco Will Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations for Every City Employee

COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for all city workers in San Francisco once a vaccine has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, city officials said Wednesday.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the latest move would make San Francisco the first city or county in California, and probably in the country, to require COVID-19 vaccinations for government workers.

City employees who don't have a medical or religious exemption and don't comply with the vaccine requirement could lose their jobs.

The Chronicle reported Mawuli Tugbenyoh, the chief of policy at the San Francisco Department of Human Resources (DHR), said "repercussions [for refusing vaccination] go all the way up to termination. But we're focused on the education and outreach part of it now."

The latest mandate would apply to all city employees, including the police force, firefighters as well as city hall clerks and custodians. Teachers, however, would not fall under the vaccine requirement as they are school district employees.

The Chronicle reported that from Monday, workers will have 30 days to report their current vaccination status through the city's payroll system, according to Carol Isen, human resources director at the DHR.

As proof of their vaccination, workers will need to upload an image of their vaccination card or the QR code generated by the state's digital verification system, the Chronicle reported.

Once a vaccine is approved by the FDA, city employees will have 10 weeks from then to receive their shots.

Isen said: "It's really a decision for the health and safety of our employees and our public that we serve.

"It's about protecting the city as an employer from what we deem to be unacceptable risk."

According to the DHR, just over half (55 percent) of city employees were reported to have been partially vaccinated, while around 5 percent said they were not vaccinated. The vaccination status of 40 percent of personnel is unknown.

DHR's Tugbenyoh said around 80 percent of San Francisco residents aged 12 and over who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination have received at least one dose, marking one of the highest vaccination rates in California.

But around 60 percent of city workers live elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, where vaccination rates may be lower, the DHR chief of policy noted.

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, also warned it was vital to protect the city workforce due to the threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19 across the city.

According to the Chronicle, Colfax said: "We think from the broader public health lens that this is absolutely important and the right thing to do.

"Given that the Delta variant is here and likely to increase in terms of its prevalence across the city, we need to do everything we can to protect our city workforce and the public we serve, especially as the city reopens.

"The last thing we want to do is have to slow or curtail city services because of an increase in cases."

Newsweek has contacted the DHR, the San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Workers United, the city's Department of Public Health, the Mayor's Office and the FDA for comment.

The latest announcement in San Francisco follows a mandate issued at a Houston hospital, which required workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before it has been fully approved by the FDA.

The mandate saw dozens of employees walk out of their shifts in protest of the vaccine requirement earlier in June.

The 117 Houston Methodist Hospital employees who sued the hospital for its mandatory vaccination policy vowed to file an appeal after a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

According to the Texas Tribune, a spokesperson at Houston Methodist said Tuesday that over 150 workers who refused to comply with the hospital's vaccine mandate either resigned or were fired, just a week after the lawsuit was dismissed in a federal court.

At the start of June, Moderna was the second drugmaker to apply for full FDA approval of its COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer-BioNTech started the application process for the full approval of its vaccine in early May.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been approved by the FDA under an emergency use authorization (EUA), which aims "to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic," the FDA explains.

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told CNBC back in May that the process of receiving full FDA approval is expected to take several months.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told CNBC in May that "highly likely" that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will receive full FDA approval in the second half of 2021.

A California COVID-19 vaccination center.
A health care worker administering a COVID-19 vaccine at Cal Poly Pomona University in Pomona, California in February. All city workers in San Francisco will be required to get vaccinated once a COVID-19 vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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