Berkeley moves toward COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers

Berkeley is moving to become the latest Bay Area city with a mandate that its workers get vaccinated against COVID-19.

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley wrote in a message to employees Wednesday afternoon that the city is meeting with labor groups to discuss a policy that would require all workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.

Officials contacted the unions representing city workers last week to start “meet and confer” discussions about the mandate, Williams-Ridley wrote, and “to ensure that we proactively address employee concerns regarding a vaccination policy.”

“All of us at the City of Berkeley will be safer in the workplace if we are vaccinated,” she wrote.

The requirement would come with limited exemptions for workers with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said.

That represents a stricter policy than the one Mayor Jesse Arreguín called for last week, which would have allowed unvaccinated city employees to receive regular COVID-19 testing instead. San Jose and Walnut Creek have followed that track, announcing requirements that allow employees to get tested in lieu of vaccination, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced similar policies for state employees and teachers throughout California. San Francisco has instituted a mandate that all of its city employees be vaccinated within 10 weeks of one of the vaccines receiving full federal approval, although workers in certain high-risk settings must get their shots sooner.

In her message to workers, Williams-Ridley encouraged those who are still unvaccinated to begin planning now for which shot regimen they will take so they will be fully protected by the proposed Oct. 15 deadline.

Workers will have until early September to receive their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccines, which take five and six weeks, respectively, to reach full effectiveness. The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine takes full effect two weeks after receiving a shot.

The city is hosting a vaccination clinic in the parking lot behind City Hall on Thursday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can book an appointment at the site through Carbon Health, or walk up to receive a shot.