Most city and state employees who were asked to get vaccinated against the coronavirus have not yet reported doing so, according to numbers released this week.
Only 31% of Philadelphia city employees have provided proof of vaccination as of this week, according to the city, though all were told to be immunized against the coronavirus by Sept. 1 or begin double-masking at work.
And just under 50% of Pennsylvania’s 23,000 workers in health and congregate care facilities had provided proof of vaccination as of Friday, said a Wolf administration spokesperson. The state mandated that state health and congregate care workers be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7 or undergo weekly testing.
The commonwealth also asked nursing homes to have 80% of their employees vaccinated by Oct. 1 or require regular testing, and on Friday said just 18% of homes reporting vaccination data had met that goal by Sept. 12, when monthly data was last collected.
The vaccine benchmarks for various public or health-care workers are among many measures being taken to increase the vaccination rate as the latest surge — driven by the highly transmissible delta variant — intensifies. City and state officials predicted the vaccination numbers among the targeted worker groups would increase, but they urged any resident who is unvaccinated to get their shots.
Philadelphia officials believe the number of city workers vaccinated is “far higher” than reported, citing difficulty with getting employees who don’t routinely use computers at work to upload their vaccination cards. In Philadelphia, 69% of all adults are fully vaccinated, which would indicate the rate among the city’s more than 25,000 workers is likely higher than reported.
About 68% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated; on Friday, the state reached 85% of adults with at least one dose. Recent weeks saw an increase in vaccinations, but the renewed demand has now begun plateauing.
Departments are working with human resources to get employees’ proof of vaccination, said health department spokesperson James Garrow. The city also has offered four hours of time off for non-uniformed employees and up to $200 for corrections workers who upload their cards.
A Pennsylvania health department spokesperson said 39% of nursing homes that reported data have 70% or more of their staff fully vaccinated and said those homes are expected to meet the 80% goal over time. Department of Health employees collected strategies from the most-vaccinated facilities and are using them at the least-vaccinated, said spokesperson Maggi Barton.
In New Jersey, all teachers and state workers must be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or be tested at least once a week. Earlier this week, employees of the state’s childcare facilities were issued the same mandate, with which they must comply by Nov. 1.
The city has also mandated vaccination for all students and employees of Philadelphia’s higher education and health-care systems. Health-care workers and university employees and students have until Oct. 15 to be fully vaccinated, or they will have to wear masks and undergo regular testing. In the Philadelphia School District, teachers and other employees will be required to be vaccinated or face potential “job action,” though a deadline was not immediately set. City businesses can also opt out of the universal indoor masking requirement if they require proof of vaccination from patrons and staff.
As for Philadelphia workers, those who aren’t vaccinated are required to wear a cloth face mask over a surgical mask while working. The city has lists identifying all such employees; Garrow said supervisors are notified and required to ensure employees are double-masking.
Employees who aren’t yet vaccinated can visit hundreds of sites across the city that provide vaccines to walk-in patients, Garrow said.
“The current vaccination rate among employees and residents is lower than we would like,” he said, “and that’s why we continue to encourage everyone, employee or not, to talk with their health-care provider, family, and trusted community members and, we hope, decide to get vaccinated.”