RICHMOND, Calif. - Contra Costa County requires its approximately 8,000 county workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.
But there are exemptions for medical conditions or religious beliefs. Contra Costa County says that so far 617 workers have applied for exemptions. And 607, all but 10, have been granted.
Doctors and researchers say the only medical exemptions are for those who are allergic to the vaccine, which is rare.
County Supervisor John Gioia says exemptions are a sensitive issue.
"We are not policing people's beliefs. We are accepting people at their word. So yes we have seen a larger number take the religious exemption."
To receive a religious exemption, an employee must explain their feelings in writing. The county human resources department has the final say.
We asked Rev. Dana Mitchell, pastor of the North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond, what religious beliefs people are likely to genuinely have that would lead them away from vaccinations.
He said those who don't believe in taking medicines of any kind, even aspirin.
"You believe God has told you he wants you to avoid drugs for the purity of your body...God put doctors down here and scientists down here for the benefit and blessing of people. I believe most Christians believe that" he said.
Those workers with exemptions must take COVID tests every week.
"I am sure there are some county employees who are using the religious exemption to get out of taking the vaccine," Gioia said.
The county has not fired an employee for not being vaccinated.