San Diego police and blue collar workers have low vaccination rates

San Diego’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers will have a greater impact on blue-collar workers and law enforcement officials, as they have significantly lower vaccination rates than white-collar workers, firefighters and lawyers from the city.

New statistics released Friday, a day after San Diego became the region’s first government agency to mandate vaccines on its workers, show stark disparities in vaccination rates.

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While 65% of the city’s 11,360 employees were confirmed to be fully vaccinated as of Wednesday morning, the numbers vary by group of employees.

More than 77 percent of the city’s 959 firefighters, 71 percent of the city’s 5,126 white-collar workers, and 87 percent of the city’s 163 assistant prosecutors are fully immunized.

On the other hand, 49% of the city’s 1,800 blue-collar workers and its 1,971 police officers are fully vaccinated. The rate among the city’s 389 lifeguards is 58%.

The vaccination rate is 86 percent among a group of 962 municipal workers who are not represented by a union.

Union officials on Friday offered mixed reactions to the city’s decision to make full immunizations by November 2 a requirement to remain a city employee.

The lifeguards ‘union hailed the city’s move as a move that prioritizes public health, while police and firefighters’ unions questioned the timing and said the email l ‘Thursday’s announcement made many employees uncomfortable.

The firefighters union said it did not necessarily oppose a vaccination mandate, only its implementation. The police union asked why the city is moving beyond the state’s policy of simply requiring unvaccinated workers to get tested weekly and wear masks indoors.

A group of activists calling themselves ReOpen San Diego criticized the city’s decision as inappropriate, saying medical warrants have no place in a free society.

Mayor Todd Gloria said on Friday that part of the rationale for the warrant was that the city’s operations and services were affected by COVID-19.

“Currently we have five active outbreaks, there have been 79 infections this month among city staff, and some police and fire operations have been halted due to an increase in positive cases,” he said. he declared. “Requiring city employees to get vaccinated is a critical step in ensuring that we can continue to effectively provide essential city services as well as keep our city employees and members of the public safe. “

The email to workers announcing the warrant said the move was driven in part by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision on Monday to grant final approval to the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.

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

The city’s email says one of the three vaccines will meet the new mandate.

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

These negotiations will also determine the fate of employees who refuse to be vaccinated despite the mandate.

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

Jesse Connor, president of the city’s firefighters union, said on Friday that city officials should have delayed announcing the warrant until details can be worked out for religious and medical exemptions.

“Like Mayor Gloria, we support medical and religious exemptions for those who qualify,” Connor said. “We are therefore disappointed with what we believe to be premature communication from the city’s middle managers who lack the details necessary to request these legal exemptions.”

Connor also said the email scared some workers.

“The recent letter unnecessarily threatened workers as it associated an impending deadline with uncertainty,” he said. “Despite this rushed communication, San Diego Fire Department Local 145 remains committed to working with city leaders to find solutions. We intend to continue the meeting and conference process in order to obtain the responses our dedicated staff deserve.

Jack Schaeffer, president of the Police Union, agreed with Connor that the timing of the email was questionable and that the tone of it was unfortunate.

“If you present it as a choice, it makes people a little more nervous,” he said. “And I don’t know what the point was to get it out so quickly.”

Schaeffer also said the vaccination rate of 49% of police officers was somewhat skewed. He noted that the city divides its employees into four categories: “fully vaccinated”, “not fully vaccinated”, “refused to provide status” and “no response”.

He said some of the 382 police officers in the “refusal to provide status” category and some of the 130 police officers in the “no response” category are likely fully vaccinated – or at least partially vaccinated.

Across the city, 65 percent of workers are fully immunized, 19 percent are not fully immunized, 7 percent refused to provide their status, and 10 percent did not respond.

Chris Vanos, chief shop steward of the union representing the city’s lifeguards, congratulated Gloria on her tenure.

“Teamsters 911 and the San Diego Rescuers applaud Mayor Gloria’s dedication to public health,” he said. “We will continue to meet and confer with the city to identify and address any potential impacts on our members. “

ReOpen San Diego criticized the tenure.

“People shouldn’t be intimidated or coerced into having their livelihoods used against them,” said Amy Reichert, group leader. “It should be their choice.”

City workers who have revealed they are not vaccinated or who have refused to disclose their vaccination status are currently required to wear masks at work.

State law requires that hospital staff be vaccinated. But many other types of workers who deal with the public, including public servants, have yet to face such mandates.

Los Angeles City Council last week approved a mandate requiring city employees to be vaccinated by October 5.

While San Diego’s deadline for employees is November 2, it is essentially October 19, because a person is not considered fully vaccinated until 14 days after receiving their last dose of the vaccine.

Elizabeth J. Harless