County to vote on vaccine mandate for medical workers

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 8:04 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For the third time in four weeks, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will discuss whether to mandate all health care workers be vaccinated at its Sept. 7 meeting.

The first two times, the board punted, moving the discussion to the next available meeting.

It appears the board is ready to vote this time but just how far the discussion will go is by all measures uncertain.

“I think mandatory just gets us into a situation where we oppose one another,” said Board Chair Sharon Bronson. “I think we just need to talk and understand why those who are not vaccinated don’t want to get vaccinated.”

Pima County has nearly 75% of its adult population vaccinated with at least one shot. Whether the medical community follows that trend isn’t known.

But mandating the vaccine has some detractors even among vaccine supporters.

“I don’t want to do mandates,” said Drexel Heights Fire Chief Douglas Chappell. “I’ll do everything else but I don’t want to do mandates.”

Chappell believes most people in his 110 person department has been vaccinated but he’s never asked.

The Drexel Heights Fire Department has held vaccination events, been a point of distribution and according to Chappell, had a very high turnout among staff.

He says his department has not had a positive COVID-19 test in a month which is quite an accomplishment since it’s located in some of the zip codes which have the highest virus case numbers in the county.

His concern, and the concern among other departments, is that by forcing vaccinations, some firefighters and EMT’s will quit at a time when finding replacements is very difficult.

“It’s a good concept to say we want everybody vaccinated, of course we want everyone vaccinated,” he said. “But to make things mandatory and make employment contingent doing things like that, adds a real burden we can’t afford.”

He says his department is fully involved and fully engaged but he has a problem with “creating more conduct that somebody has to enforce.”

He’s written a letter to the county asking them not to approve the mandate.

Adding up the votes on the board and it appears it will have a difficult time passing but Bronson said she is not against a mandate if it becomes necessary.

“We really don’t have the authority, we don’t have the enforcement capabilities,” Bronson said. “We need to have a dialogue.”

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