February 02, 2022
Philadelphia's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all city employees has been pushed back to Feb. 11 as part of an effort to get more police officers inoculated against the virus.
An arbitration panel ruled Tuesday that all city workers must receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose or have submitted an exemption request by next Friday.
The decision came after the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 submitted an appeal to the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate and a pair of hearings were held on the matter. Philly has been required to negotiate with the labor unions that represent city workers before its vaccine rule can take effect.
Mayor Jim Kenney said that the panel's decision "presents a fair and reasonable path forward for everyone.”
Police officers who provide proof of having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by Feb. 11 will need to complete a full vaccination course. Recipients of Pfizer's vaccine should receive their second doses after three weeks. Those who were administered Moderna's vaccine should wait four weeks for their second shot. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is a one-dose regimen.
Booster shots can be received as soon as five months after one's second COVID-19 vaccine dose. Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients only need to wait two months for a booster shot.
Until being fully vaccinated, cops will be required to double-mask or wear an N95 mask at all times and participate in regular COVID-19 testing. Those who receive exemption requests for religious or medical reasons will need to abide by the same health and safety protocols.
Officers who submit exemption requests that are later denied must receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose within 14 days of when the request was rejected.
Cops who receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by Feb. 11 and are fully vaccinated by March 15 will be eligible for a $500 cash bonus. Officers who get their first dose by Feb. 18 and are fully vaccinated by March 22 will earn a $300 cash bonus. Those who receive their first shot by Feb. 28 and are fully vaccinated by March 29 will receive a $100 cash bonus.
Consequences for non-compliant officers will take effect in March, the city said. Cops who are not vaccinated and have not requested an exemption by the end of February will be placed on paid unvaccinated leave. That will turn into unpaid leave once all paid time off is exhausted.
Unvaccinated officers who are not exempt from the city's mandate could ultimately be fired. The arbitration panel will make a final decision on the matter by March 21, according to the city.
“The safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines remain the best way to protect Philadelphians and save lives in the ongoing struggle to fight this pandemic,” Kenney said. “As public servants, we bear a responsibility to mitigate the harm that would result from inadvertent transmission of COVID-19 to our colleagues and the public and to set an example for other organizations and companies. Our police officers are on the front lines — sworn to protect and serve our residents with honor and I want to thank them for their steadfast service in the face of adversity. At the same time, we must do all we can to protect our colleagues and the public we’re sworn to serve."
Between 71% and 80% of Philadelphia police officers are currently vaccinated, according to the city's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.
Philadelphia enacted its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all city employees and contractors in November. The rule was set to take effect Jan. 14 before it was pushed back due to ongoing negotiations between labor unions and city officials.
The city has also had to negotiate over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate with the Philadelphia Firefighters' and Paramedics' Union, as well as two branches of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Agreements have already been reached with both AFSCME branches.
Close to 90% of residents ages 12 and up have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 73% of residents are fully vaccinated.