San Francisco will require all city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19

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SAN FRANCISCO – In an announcement Wednesday night, the city of San Francisco told its 37,000 employees that they either need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 within 10 weeks of final approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a coronavirus vaccine, or lose their job.

This would make San Francisco the first major American city to require vaccination of all city employees.

“It’s pretty simple – it’s my job to protect the safety of our employees, I exercise my duty under the San Francisco Charter to do just that,” said Carol Isen, director of human resources for the city ​​and county of San Francisco.

Currently, all COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States were FDA approved under what is called an emergency use authorization, an accelerated process. Emergency use is an authority that Congress gave to the FDA after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to allow for the availability of countermeasures, treatments or vaccines earlier than what would normally be done in the part of the approval process.

The entire drug approval process takes longer. Some have used the fact that the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were all issued for emergency use as a reason to question their safety.

Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech submitted an application to the FDA for full approval of their COVID-19 vaccine on May 7. Moderna did it on June 1st.

San Francisco policy requires all staff to report their immunization status to the city by July 29 as a condition of employment. To do this, they need to upload a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card or vaccination documentation from their healthcare provider.

Medical exemptions will be available for employees with health conditions that affect their vaccine eligibility, but these should be verified by their health care provider.

A “sincere religious belief that prohibits them from receiving a vaccine” could also constitute grounds for exemption, depending on the city’s vaccination policy. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“It would be the employee’s responsibility to establish a sincere religious belief,” Isen said.

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Currently, about 60% of San Francisco employees have told the city they are vaccinated, Isen said.

The city informed local unions that the requirement was coming. Several unions to which city employees belong already have vaccination sites in their union halls or organize neighborhood vaccination fairs. The city plans to meet with the unions later this week to further discuss the policy, Isen said.

The new policy will protect employees and also save taxpayer dollars. Workers’ compensation claims for San Francisco employees who are exposed to COVID-19 at work and cannot work because they are sick with COVID have already cost San Francisco nearly $ 3 million, Isen said.

“This is a huge incentive for us, because it is a cost that we have to bear – the simple, easy, safe and straightforward solution is for every employee to be vaccinated,” she said.

Isen said she hopes that when surrounding communities see what San Francisco has done, others will follow.

“The science is absolutely clear,” Isen said. “If you are vaccinated you have the force field. Unvaccinated you are really a big risk to yourself and the people around you.”

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