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San Diego to mandate city workers be fully vaccinated

The City of San Diego notified all 11,000 of the city’s employees by email Thursday that they must get a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 2.

The city is the first major government agency in the region to mandate that all employees get vaccinated. Los Angeles issued a similar mandate last week requiring city workers to be vaccinated by Oct. 5.

The email to San Diego city employees does not explain the rationale for the Nov. 2 deadline.

Because a person is not considered fully vaccinated until 14 days after they have received their final dose of a vaccine, the deadline for San Diego city employees to complete their vaccinations is essentially Oct. 19.

The email says vaccinations are now required as “a condition of continued employment,” but it doesn’t specify how or when employees who decline to get vaccinated would lose their jobs.

Employees will be allowed to apply for a medical or religious exemption, but the details of how those exemptions would work are still being negotiated by city officials and the six labor unions that represent city employees.

Those negotiations also will determine the fate of employees who decline to get vaccinated despite the mandate.

The email says state labor law allows the city to move forward with a vaccine mandate without labor negotiations, but negotiations are required to determine the “impact” of the mandate and how exemptions would work.

The city recently began requiring its employees to disclose their vaccination status. Workers who have either disclosed that they are not vaccinated or who have refused to disclose their vaccination status have been required to wear masks on the job.

State law requires that hospital workers be vaccinated, but many other kinds of workers who deal with the public, including government workers, had not faced such mandates. San Diego County earlier this month began requiring its 18,000 workers to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID tests.

The email to San Diego city employees, which was sent Thursday afternoon, says the city’s decision was partly prompted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision Monday to grant final approval to the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, and in light of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021, the City of San Diego will now be requiring all City employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of continued employment,” the city email says.

Previously, the Pfizer vaccine only had “emergency use authorization.” The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines still have only that lower-level approval.

The city’s email says any of the three vaccines will satisfy the new mandate. Workers can use time during work hours to get vaccinated, up to two hours per dose.

Once labor negotiations are complete, the email says, that the city will send a communication to employees with more information regarding the reasonable accommodation process for medical or religious exemptions.