San Francisco leaders defend vaccine mandate for city workers as deadline approaches

The deadline is quickly approaching for San Francisco employees to be fully vaccinated.

The city is requiring that employees at high risk of COVID exposure need to be inoculated by Oct. 13, and the city's leaders are standing by that deadline.

Those who don't abide by the citywide mandate risk losing their jobs. More than 90% of city employees are already vaccinated. But, more than 200 of the city's more than 2,800 police officers are applying for waivers.

The mayor says that flies in the face of public safety.

"The fact is I've made it clear that our expectation in asking people to get vaccinated has everything to do with not only keeping other city employees safe but keep the public safe," Mayor London Breed said.

Breed said she will go ahead with the vaccination order despite the threat of losing officers.

"We have in our budget more academy classes," Breed said. "We are going to move those forward a lot quicker than, maybe, we'd anticipated. We're going to try to get new officers trained and out on the streets."

Senator Scott Wiener said those officers have an obligation to get vaccinated in order to protect and serve.

"If you have a police officer or firefighter or a paramedic who decides not to be vaccinated, that person is putting the entire public at risk," said Wiener. "As well as other police officers, other paramedics, and other firefighters."

The city's human resources department has said it will work to educate city workers hoping they will get immunized, only severing them from city employment as a last option.

Police Chief Bill Scott said last week that the city would be going ahead with disciplinary action against eight employees who'd failed to disclose their vaccination status in August. He also said he's standing by city leaders in urging his officers to get vaccinated.

"We're in a global pandemic where over 600,000 have lost their lives," Scott said. "We all have to do our parts, and our leadership, our mayor has been very clear, on what she wants to see from all of her departments."

Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said in a statement to KTVU, "The SFPOA is meeting and conferring with the city on the impacts to officers stemming from the vaccine mandate and this includes religions and medical exemptions and the process to grant or deny them. We believe the best solution is for employees to either test weekly or get vaccinated. Those discussions are ongoing."