‘Not very encouraged’: City of Charlotte says 62% of its employees are vaccinated

CHARLOTTE — The city of Charlotte, which employs more than 7,700 people, said that 62% of them are vaccinated. The disclosure comes after the city manager sent a survey to employees asking for their vaccination status. The shots have been readily available for a month and Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt is disappointed more people haven’t gotten vaccinated.

“(I’m) not very encouraged to be honest, because as they say, most people who were willing to get the vaccine have gotten it by now,” she said.

[Here’s how much the city of Charlotte will pay workers to get vaccinated]

Eiselt is also concerned that frontline departments have the lowest rates. The city is considering that everyone who didn’t respond to their mandatory vaccination survey to be unvaccinated.

The Charlotte Fire Department has the lowest rate at 48%. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has the second highest rate with 59%. The Charlotte Area Transit Authority has 60% of its workers vaccinated.

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COVID-19 has already cost the city $2.8 million in health care costs. Eiselt thinks the city manager should consider a higher premium for unvaccinated employees.

“There should probably be some kind of a premium that you’re going to have to pay for health insurance, because the city has already spent millions of dollars on hospitalizations and health care for people that have gotten COVID,” she said.

For now, the city is trying to pay people to get the shots. All vaccinated employees will get $250. If 75% of the workforce gets shots by the end of the month, everyone will get an additional $250. The city said that 1,100 more people need to get vaccinated in order to hit the 75% mark.

If that doesn’t work, Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera said that all options should be on the table

“We have to consider what are the options we have from our city manager’s office and city attorney’s office working together to figure out what is legal, and what is something that we can do,” Ajmera said. “Because we are ultimately talking about the men and women who are protecting others.”

The city is not mandating the shots but strongly recommends them. Unlike the county, the city also has not announced any plans to test unvaccinated employees.

[Charlotte first responders serving through the crisis]

The city manager’s office and internal audit department both have a 100% vaccination rate. The departments have 19 employees. CFD, CMPD and CATS account for 4,099 employees, which is more than half of the city’s workforce.

Charlotte Fire response:

CFD Capt. Jackie Gilmore said the department’s vaccination rate reflects that “our community is where the debate for and against vaccination continues.” Gilmore said that the fire department has been promoting vaccines to employees.

“The department has been very active in encouraging vaccines verbally and in written communications and will aggressively promote the city’s vaccination reward program,” he said. “We are optimistic that more of our staff will get vaccinated.”

Gilmore said the department has not had a positive exposure related to emergency response.

CFD statement:

“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on all of our lives. We have worked closely with the Health Department and our Health and Safety Division to educate department members on the efficacy and safety of the vaccine since its availability. Our personal protective equipment protocols have been in place since the very beginning of the pandemic to reduce our exposure and transmission of the virus. In addition, we support the city and county mask resolution where our members, vaccinated or unvaccinated, are required to wear face coverings while interacting with the public in non-emergency settings. Our department reflects our community where the debate for and against vaccination continues.

“The Fire Chief has made the choice for himself and his family to get vaccinated and encourages everyone to do the same for themselves, their families, coworkers, and the community. The Fire Chief has encouraged CFD staff to get vaccinated and will continue to do so. The department has been very active in encouraging vaccines verbally and in written communications and will aggressively promote the City’s vaccination reward program. We are optimistic that more of our staff will get vaccinated.

“We have been able to maintain minimum staffing and ensure continuity of our operations throughout the pandemic. Furthermore, we have a duty to service and will continue to serve the community when called. We have not had a positive exposure related to emergency response.”

CMPD response:

Like CFD, CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said the police department has been actively encouraging employees to get COVID-19 shots.

“Department bulletins are consistently issued underscoring the benefits associated with vaccines as the CMPD continues to encourage employees to get vaccinated,” Tufano said. “The department is also aggressively promoting the city of Charlotte’s vaccination incentive initiative.”

Tufano said the department is optimistic CMPD’s vaccination rate will grow.

“We, as a department, will continue to promote the health benefits associated with vaccines and encourage our employees to get vaccinated,” he said.

CATS statement:

“CATS has partnered with Mecklenburg County Public Health to hold vaccination events at the Charlotte Transportation Center, employee facilities and during various community events. CATS fully supports and promotes the City’s vaccination incentive program, and we will continue to encourage employees to get vaccinated.”

(Watch the video below: Charlotte first responders have lowest vaccination rate among city employees)