Milwaukee To Require City Employees To Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Mandate Follows Full Approval Of Pfizer Vaccine By Federal Regulators

coronavirus vaccine
A shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena Friday, May 14, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

Calling it the “right thing to do” to end the pandemic, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Tuesday that all general city employees would have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October. City workers who do not comply with the requirements could be suspended or fired.

The vaccine mandate, which goes into effect Sept. 1, will affect between 3,000-4,000 general city workers; as of now the requirement doesn’t include unionized public safety workers such as police and firefighters. Talks are underway with those groups, Barrett said Tuesday.

The mandate will have exemptions for medical or religious reasons. City employees will receive up to two hours of paid leave to receive vaccinations.

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Some city officials have called for health officials to also issue a mask mandate, but Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said the focus is on vaccination.

“We really want to get more people vaccinated. Vaccination is our way out of this,” she said.

Johnson said she supports Milwaukee Public Schools requiring masks for students and staff, along with many private schools in the area. The city has issued an advisory for all people — vaccinated or not — to wear a mask indoors.

The decision to require city employees to get vaccinated comes one day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. It also comes on the heels of an announcement by Gov. Tony Evers that people getting vaccinated between Aug. 20 and Labor Day can receive a $100 gift card.

Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said there’s little reason not be vaccinated in light of the incentive, federal approval and rising hospitalizations for COVID-19.

“The best tool that we have against the physical illness, social separation and economic depression that COVID-19 brings is vaccination. Together, we can create a safer community for all who live, work, play and learn in Milwaukee,” Johnson said in a statement.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley is not requiring county employees be vaccinated, but said at a Tuesday briefing that “it’s not off the table. We are considering all of our options.”

Madison and Dane County announced on Aug. 3 that they would be requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for face weekly testing, citing the rise of the more contagious delta variant.