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November 19, 2021

Philadelphia expands COVID-19 vaccine requirement to all city employees

Union-represented workers and contractors must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 14

Government COVID-19
Philadelphia COVID-19 vaccine mandate Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

All union-represented city employees and contractors in Philadelphia will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-January, the Department of Public Health said.

Philadelphia is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to include all city employees and contractors as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

All union-represented workers and city contractors will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 14, the Philadelphia Department of Health said Friday.

Exemptions from the requirement will only be granted for religious or medical reasons and requests must be submitted to the city by Dec. 20.

Those who receive exemptions will be required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and must wear two face masks or an N95 at all times while at work.

Unvaccinated employees who do not receive an exemption will be suspended without pay for two weeks. If an unvaccinated employee does not begin the vaccination process while on unpaid leave, they will be fired.

The city is also providing all employees with a holiday incentive to get vaccinated. Any city worker who can show proof that they are fully vaccinated by Dec. 24 will receive a $300 bonus.

"As public servants, we bear a responsibility to help protect the health of our colleagues and the public we serve," Mayor Jim Kenney wrote in a tweet.

Reports of a possible COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers originally emerged in August when Philly enacted its vaccination requirement for all health care systems and colleges.

New employees, as well as non-represented civil service workers, have already been subject to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the city's health department said.

Philadelphia's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all health care workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities, as well as college students and staff, has taken effect over the last month

Employees and students who received medical or religious exemptions have been subject to regular COVID-19 testing. Those without exemptions and out of compliance with the mandate are prohibited from working and studying in collegiate and health care settings.

The School District of Philadelphia has required all teachers, staff and employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since late September. Those who are exempt from the requirement have been required to undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week.

Philadelphia's expansion of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to cover all city employees comes as coronavirus infections continue to rise ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Philly is currently experiencing a high level of COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC. The city is averaging 253 new cases per day over the last two weeks, with a test positivity rate of 3% as of Thursday.

More than 91% of adults and nearly 85% of children ages 12 and up have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 74% of adults and almost 69% of children in that age group are fully vaccinated. More than 5% of children ages 5-11 in the city so far have received a COVID-19 vaccine this month.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded eligibility Friday for booster shots of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines to all fully-vaccinated adults who received their most-recent dose of either vaccine at least six months ago. 

Fully-vaccinated adults who received Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for a booster shot too. The amended eligibility must receive final approval from the CDC before taking effect.

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