Los Angeles County has ended its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employees, allowing workers — including sheriffs and firefighters — to be employed even if they have not been vaccinated.
The policy change, which goes into effect Monday, is the latest COVID-19-related rule to be eased in LA County as officials resume regular relax the emergency period their pandemic response.
“No longer requires the COVID-19 vaccination for new or existing county employees, unless otherwise required by federal, state, or local regulation or order,” said Jesus Ruiz, a spokesman for the LA County executive’s office.
Ending employee immunizations is “consistent with the Board of Supervisors’ decisions to end the emergency,” according to a statement on behalf of LA County officials. administrative Council voted unanimously to cancel declared that emergency at the end of February and the move was officially implemented a week ago.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday also approved the repeal of a rule that requires certain contractors for the county to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or already have a medical or religious exemption.
However, ending the requirement to vaccinate more widely for employees does not mean the end of all such mandates. Most healthcare workers still need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to federal regulations that apply to facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid.
LA County still asking too healthcare workers complete their primary vaccine series and get at least one booster dose, or their facility will be exempt. That policy will be reevaluated in September, but in the meantime, “new healthcare workers will need to comply with existing immunization requirements,” said County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. know.
The county’s COVID-19 vaccination order goes into effect on October 1, 2021, more than five months after vaccination available for all adults in California.
This decision has a broad impact on LA County, which is the most populous in the nation. With over 100,000 salaried workers, it’s Southern California biggest employer, according to the county’s Department of Human Resources.
LA County elected and health officials said the vaccination regulation was appropriate when it was enacted. At that time, Supervisor Janice Hahn speak COVID-19 is the leading killer of law enforcement officers across the country.
Officials say the mandate to vaccinate county workers not only protects employees but also the public they serve. For example, deputy sheriffs and firefighters frequently come into contact with vulnerable or elderly people who are at risk of serious illness especially if infected.
“If you are in the business of supporting the most vulnerable people in the county, it makes sense for everyone to be fully vaccinated, especially during a pandemic,” Ferrer said. speak in early 2022, when LA County was escaping a deadly disaster winter Omicron rise.
Data from that pandemic period shows that Unvaccinated people are at higher risk infections, hospitalizations, and deaths compared with vaccinated individuals.
However, the request has been controversial, causing backlash and warnings that it could trigger an employee exodus. Among the critics at that time was the Chief of Police Alex Villanueva, who said in October 2021 that although he has personally received the vaccine and believes it works, the decision must be personal. Villanueva also argued at the time that it was pointless to impose vaccination requirements “when the pandemic was waning”.
In fact, the requirement took effect only a few weeks before the appearance of the Omicron . variant – sent the number of cases skyrocketed, flooded hospitals and caused a wave of deaths that only overcame the first brutal winter of the pandemic.
LA County employees can waive the immunization requirement if they have a medical reason or a “sincere religious belief, practice, or adherence that conflicts with an individual’s ability to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” .”
Out of a countywide workforce of more than 100,000 employees, 7,359 vaccine waiver requests were approved. Sixty-eight workers have separation from county affairs for non-compliance with vaccination policy, officials said.
By the time the staff immunization policy was in effect, 68% of LA County residents 6 months of age and older had received at least one dose of vaccine. According to the most recent news data, 81% of residents in that same age group did so. It is not clear to what extent vaccine regulation may have contributed to boosting vaccination rates.
Many things have changed since the employee’s original assignment was issued, including the introduction an updated booster shot designed against the growing family of Omicron sub-variants, an abundant supply of medicine against COVID-19 and broader immunity through vaccinations and infections. The evolution of the coronavirus has also stabilized over the past year, meaning many of the tools that worked months ago are still effective today.
Although the shots’ anti-infective effectiveness has waned, officials note they continue to offer strong protection against the worst health outcomes.
This January, unvaccinated Californians were 2.6 times more likely to get and be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 2.9 times more likely to die from the disease than non-vaccinated Californians. have had at least their primary series of vaccines, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
More recently, Ferrer said LA County has entered a new pandemic phase where hospitals are no longer threatened by overcrowding with COVID-19 patients.
“Where we are right now is unique because the transmission is relatively low and the hospitalization rate is even lower,” she said.
Ferrer added that a COVID-19 vaccine is still very important.
“We have had two years where the vaccine has been shown to be effective. And we really don’t have the serious side effects that most people who get vaccinated have,” she said.
During the most recent annual period, from April 2022 to March 2023, approximately 145,000 US residents died from COVID-19, according to the report. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By comparison, 547,000 deaths from COVID-19 were reported between April 2020 and March 2021, and about 423,000 deaths between April 2021 and March 2022.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the US of 1.1 million is larger than the last major global pandemic of its kind, Influenza pandemic started in 1918. That pandemic caused about 675,000 deaths nationwide.