OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Alameda County health officials issued an order Tuesday requiring all first responders and medical transport providers to be fully vaccinated against COVID by next month.
The order by Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss applies to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and other non-emergency medical transport personnel to be fully vaccinated by December 21 or wear masks and test for COVID weekly.
A booster shot is currently not required to be fully vaccinated.
The order also applies to people who enter high-risk care facilities in the county such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and adult and senior care facilities. Employers can choose to require COVID-19 vaccination without a test and mask option for their workforce.
Due to the nature of their professions, these workers are at high-risk for spreading COVID to patients, medically vulnerable residents, and staffers in such health care settings. It's been established that a fully-vaccinated person can contract the virus although they are less likely to be infected, and those who do test positive for COVID are infectious for a shorter time, reducing the chances that a vaccinated person will spread the virus to others.
"Evidence shows that unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected by the virus that causes COVID-19, which is transmitted through the air. Unvaccinated providers entering High-Risk Health Care Facilities can spread COVID-19. This Order is necessary to reduce that risk and protect older and medically vulnerable residents and staff," said Dr. Nicolas Moss, Alameda County Health Officer.
A press statement from Alameda County strongly encouraged residents to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, especially with the winter and holiday gatherings approaching, and recommended vaccine boosters for certain groups, including residents 65 and older and those who are medically vulnerable or at high-risk for exposure or severe illness. Health experts say the flu and COVID vaccines can be administered at the same time.
Mike Bratcher, a medical transport worker, sees both sides of the vaccination effort.
"They're entitled to their opinion. You talking about infringing on people's rights, or are you talking about doing what's best for everybody?" said Bratcher. "Everybody's got different opinions, so. What are you supposed to do?"
David Madrigal, a retiree in Fremont, recently lost a friend to COVID-19, and supports Tuesday's health order.
"You don't want to get the shot, quit," said Madrigal. "You know they should. Everybody should. Everybody in the world should get a shot. I mean, if we want to save each other, we should all get the shot."
Medical assistant Corina Villalpondo said getting the vaccine is a way to show respect for others.
"If they don't see it as a protection for themselves, I guess sometimes just do it for your family, too," said Villalpondo.
KPIX 5 requested comment from the following police unions, but did not receive a response:
Deputy Sheriffs' Association of Alameda County
Oakland Police Officers Association
Fremont Police Association
Berkeley Police Association
Hayward Police Officers Association
for more features.