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Santa Monica Mandates Vaccinations for City Employees

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Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

August 26, 2021 -- The City of Santa Monica on Tuesday issued a policy requiring all City employees, contractors and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by October 29.

The policy instituted by Interim City Manager John Jalili won the support of the City Council that night with a 5 to 1 vote, with one Council member abstaining.

The policy -- which also covers Council members, as well as members of all Boards and Commissions -- requires those covered to receive the first vaccine shot by September 17.

Exemptions will be granted for medical or religious concerns, Jalili said.

Vaccinations are necessary, Jalili said, for the City to "fulfill it's primary function of protecting the health and safety of our community, as well as providing a safe environment for our workers."

Other local governments have imposed similar mandates, including Los Angeles County, which set an October 1 deadline for all employees to be fully vaccinated.

The City of LA imposed an October 15 deadline and Pasadena a September 17 deadline.

Santa Monica's policy was instituted as City officials negotiate terms with employee unions that will dictate the repercussions of failing to comply ("Council to Weigh in as City, Unions Negotiate Vaccination Mandate," August 20, 2021).

The Council expressed it's support by backing an item placed on the agenda by Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Councilmembers Gleam Davis and Phil Brock.

The item endorsed the mandate as a necessary way "to protect the health and safety of both City employees and the public we serve."

"I feel it's something (being vaccinated) our staff owes to the public, to each other and to their families," said Brock, who added that he has lost six friends and business colleagues to Covid.

The Council members were not unanimous in their support. Newly appointed Councilmember Lana Negrete abstained, saying she was "conflicted."

Negrete, said she is fully vaccinated but understood why some people "have issues with the vaccination" that go beyond medical or religious reasons.

Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the mandate was "problematic on constitutional grounds and human rights grounds."

"Forcing someone to put something in their body, there are certainly some legal issues," de la Torre said.

"I want to see more education (and) incentives for employees to make that decision."

Half a dozen speakers testified Tuesday night, with all but one opposing the mandate.

The speakers questioned the government's right to force or coerce individuals to take an experimental drug whose long-term effects have not been determined.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, one of three vaccines developed under former President Donald Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" and given emergency authorization in December.

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