As Pima County vaccine mandates end, it’s looking for ways to keep vaccine rate up

As Pima County vaccine mandates end, it’s looking for ways to keep vaccine rate up
As Pima County vaccine mandates end, it’s looking for ways to keep vaccine rate up
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 8:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote next week on whether to give its employees who choose to be vaccinated against COVID, two days of leave time, 16 hours off with pay.

“To make sure the employees have that opportunity, that incentive, some extra leave to do the right thing for their families their colleagues and their own families,” said District 2 Supervisor Matt Heinz. “And make sure they get protected.”

The reason is because the county has an 86% vaccination compliance rate and would like to keep it there. The vaccine mandates the county imposed of its workers last year will go away Sept. 24 because of a law passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor which prohibits mandatory vaccine requirements. The county feels that’s one reason why the compliance rate is so high.

When the mandate was passed on September 1, 2021, 4,632 workers were vaccinated. Now the total is 5,635.

“I am absolutely confident that there are some Pima County employees that are alive today because of the protections we put in place,” Heinz said.

But now because of state law those mandates disappear and the county is worried its workers are exposed now and in the future if, or when, another pandemic appears on the horizon.

“It’s pretty clear the authority for public health crisis rests with the county health department leader and that’s Dr. Cullen,” he said. “That’s not the governor.”

But it’s state law which trumps the health department regardless.

“We are restricted in that we have to follow what the state does and since the governor has lifted a lot of restrictions it really doesn’t give the county a lot of room to do anything different,” said Adelita Grijalva, Supervisor for District 5.

And whether this works to help incentivize the workers isn’t a sure thing either.

It depends on whether it’s a benefit or whether some may say it discriminates against those who don’t want to get vaccinated.

That’s yet to be debated.