Home News Changes Coming to Pima County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy for Employees

Changes Coming to Pima County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy for Employees

Changes Coming to Pima County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy for Employees

In response to recent legislation signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to modify their COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employees, stepping back a policy they approved just six months ago.
Arizona House Bill 2498, which was signed into law April 25, effectively precludes a government entity from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for any resident of the state, with exceptions for healthcare institutions operated by a government entity.
The legislation will take effect 90 days after Arizona’s current legislative session adjourns, scheduled for June 30.
In November, the board approved a plan requiring all new county hires, as well as all employees working with “vulnerable populations,” be fully vaccinated by Dec. 31, 2021, or face termination. Promotions for current employees were also contingent on those employees being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The county’s requirement mainly included employees who worked in clinical and correctional settings, but could also be applied to public service counters, community centers, and those employees who interacted with young children or elderly populations on a regular basis.
Out of about 2,100 employees considered to be working with vulnerable populations, 51 county employees were ultimately terminated in January for failing to comply with the county’s vaccine policy.
“Requiring vaccination for that narrow subset of employees that interact closely with the public continues to make sense from a public health standpoint,” County Administrator Jan Lesher wrote in a May 17 memo to the board.
“This action also protects the health of our own employees whose job functions place them at an elevated risk as well as the health of those employees that may not be able to be vaccinated.”
But in response to the recent legislation, the board will begin walking back that requirement this fall.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, supervisors approved a staff recommendation to keep the current vaccination policy in place for new hires and promotions until HB2498 takes effect in late September.
A COVID-19 vaccine requirement will also remain in place “for personnel working or having consistent exposure to certain environments where clinical care is delivered,” according to the recommendation, and the county will continue to provide incentives for those who choose to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster dose.
District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy, the sole opposing vote Tuesday, repeated his discontent with a policy he’s seen as “punitive” since its implementation.
“It has a disruptive and disrespectful impact on our ability to retain and recruit talent that we need so desperately in Pima County,” he said.
According to Lesher, about 280 unvaccinated county employees, who do not have valid medical or religious exemptions on file, are currently paying a surcharge for their employee health insurance, a policy that has also been in place since November.
Dr. Francisco Garcia, deputy county administrator and the county’s chief medical officer, said Tuesday that staff would have a full report on the impact and effectiveness of those surcharges, and subsequent cost savings to the county, in about six months.
At that point, Garcia said, the board and county administration could consider whether to continue or eliminate that policy as part of their COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

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