The City of Bowie is making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for staff, according to a new policy sent to employees on Friday.
“Vaccines are a critical method of controlling the spread of COVID. As such, all staff who may have contact with the public or other essential staff as part of their daily job responsibilities will be required to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination,” the policy states.
City Manager, Alfred Lott wanted the vaccine to be mandatory because it is essential for the staff to do their jobs. Around 400 employees will have to adhere to this new policy that went into effect on Jan. 22, he said.
“We need everyone who has contact with the public to not get residents infected, especially not by an employee that has not been vaccinated,” Lott said. “We will work with employees who can’t get the vaccine right away due to medical or religious reasons, but at some point they may not be able to be retained.”
According to guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers can require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine. If an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace, according to the guidance.
“If a staff member does not believe he or she ... has contact with the public or other essential staff as part of the staff member’s daily job responsibilities and do not want to receive the vaccination, the staff member must submit a request to Daniel Mears, Assistant City Manager, explaining why he or she does not believe this policy applies to that staff member,” according to the policy.
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Lott believes most employees will get the vaccination without a problem. The human resources department will keep track of what staff members get vaccinated and will ask to them to produce documentation, he said. Lott said he plans to get his first dose of the vaccine on Feb. 12.
“I have faith in the health agencies and this vaccine that it will help us get out of this pandemic,” Lott said.
Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Boafo has got his first dose of the vaccine and is an advocate for others to as well.
“Getting people vaccinated will be critical as we attempt to get a handle on the pandemic,” Boafo said. “It is my opinion that the City Manager’s office will evaluate each situation with care. All of us at City Hall are committed to protecting workers and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
District 4 Councilwoman Roxy Ndebumadu also got her first dose and said she is “really supportive of the vaccine.” But the policy being mandatory for staff wasn’t something she supported.
“Forcing this upon people abruptly is a bit haste without consulting with the council as well as not giving the employees an opportunity to gauge how they feel about it to submit their comments,” Ndebumadu said. “The governor or the county executive hasn’t enforced a mandatory vaccine policy, so It just gives me a little pause. I just question why this particular route or avenue was taken?”
Ndebumadu believes the city could have gone about the policy other ways to make sure employees knew the reason for the decision and felt included in the process. She supports the encouragement of getting the vaccine but doesn’t want it to feel forced.