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Santa Monica Police, Fire Vaccination Rates Lag

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October 26, 2021 -- With Friday's vaccine deadline for City workers fast approaching, one quarter of Santa Monica's Police Department and more than one-third of its Fire Department remain unvaccinated after being granted exemptions, according to data from the City.

Both Departments are poised to meet full compliance -- with 90 percent compliance for police, who have a 74 percent vaccination rate, and 99 percent for fire, with a 62 percent vaccination rate.

That compares with 85 percent of municipal employees who have reported being vaccinated with 94 percent in compliance.

The discrepancy between the vaccination and compliance rates is due to medical and religious exemptions granted to those who submitted the necessary paperwork by September 17, City officials said.

"As part of its Vaccination Policy, the City of Santa Monica reviewed requests for medical/disability and religious exemptions on a case -by-case basis," said Constance Farrell, the City's Public Information Officer.

A medical/disability exemption can be submitted by an employee "with a medical condition, disability, or other medical restriction that affects their ability to safely receive a COVID-19 vaccine, as verified by their Health Care provider."

To qualify for the exemption, employees must obtain a completed certification from their health care provider on a form provided by the City, Farrell said.

A religious exemption is defined as "an employee with a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance that prohibits them from receiving a vaccine."

Those who are unvaccinated by Friday's deadline must undergo coronavirus testing twice a week, said Mayor Sue Himmelrich.

The "standard mandate" will help ensure the public is not exposed to the virus and encourage unvaccinated employees to get the shot, Himmerich said.

"I'm not happy" with the low vaccination rates among Public Safety personnel, Himmelrich said, "but I don't think there's a legal way to do it."

Himmelrich believes the low vaccination and high exemption rates in the Police and Fire Departments reflect a nationwide trend.

"They're doing it in part for political reasons," she said. "If they want to get their exemptions, they still have to get tested.

"They're going to get sick of it really fast," Himmelrich said. "I think that ultimately, they'll all be vaccinated."

City Manager David White thanked the City's workforce for its high vaccination rate, which approaches the 86.5 rate for Santa Monica residents, among the highest in the County.

“Thank you to the 85 percent of the City workforce, including a majority of our dedicated public safety personnel, who have received the COVID-19 vaccine to protect their family, our community, and one another," White said.

"We have testing protocols in place to safeguard the health of our colleagues and the public we serve.”

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