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San Francisco becomes biggest U.S. city to require vaccine for municipal workers

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San Francisco is now the largest municipality in the U.S. to say it will require all city workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, or else risk losing their jobs. The policy, posted on the city government's website on Wednesday, takes effect on June 28.

Roughly 35,000 city employees in the California city will have up to 10 weeks to get their jabs after the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval for the vaccines, which are currently authorized for emergency use only in the U.S.

Employees have until the end of July to report their vaccination status through the city's payroll system. They're being asked to provide proof of vaccination by uploading a photo of their vaccination card, for example.

City officials said mandatory vaccination will ensure the safety of both staffers and the public. 

"COVID-19 continues to pose a risk, especially to individuals who are not fully vaccinated, and certain safety measures remain necessary to protect against COVID-19 cases and deaths," said Carol Isen, the city's human resources director, in a statement. "Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent transmission and limit COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths."

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Unvaccinated employees are more likely to contract COVID-19 and could infect members of the public who depend on city services, Isen added.

San Francisco municipal employees with a medical condition or religious beliefs that bar them from receiving a vaccine may be exempt from the mandate. But workers without restrictions who fail to get vaccinated could be fired, according to the new policy. 

"Failure to comply with this policy may result in discipline up to and including termination of employment," Isen said. 

As of June 20, 72% of San Francisco's eligible population are fully vaccinated, and 81% of those age 65 and over are fully vaccinated, according to city officials. 

San Francisco's public health department has also partnered with its baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, to encourage city residents to get their shots. Starting June 25, people who get vaccinated at one of two designated sites will receive a pair of complimentary tickets to a Giants game between July and September.

Currently, anyone who lives, works or studies in San Francisco and is 12 years or older is eligible for one of three COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. 

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In the private sector, some employers are taking a harder line and requiring that workers and visitors be vaccinated before returning to their buildings. 

Investment bank Morgan Stanley said that beginning next month, vaccination will be mandatory for staffers, contingent workers, clients and visitors — effectively everyone who wishes to enter Morgan Stanley's offices in New York City and suburban Westchester County. And online retailer Saks is requiring its roughly 500 Manhattan-based employees to get their shots before returning to its headquarters.

Meanwhile, other companies including investment bank Goldman Sachs are stopping short of vaccine mandates and instead asking workers to certify that they've been vaccinated before returning to communal office spaces. 

Employees at the investment bank received a memo this month explaining that "registering your vaccination status allows us to plan for a safer return to the office for all of our people as we continue to abide by local public health measures."

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