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Philadelphia Housing Authority will require vaccination for its employees

The housing authority is now the largest in the country to require employee vaccination.

Barb Little, a Temple University Health System nurse, gives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic at a Philadelphia Housing Authority site in March.
Barb Little, a Temple University Health System nurse, gives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic at a Philadelphia Housing Authority site in March.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia Housing Authority, the fourth-largest public housing agency in the nation, will require its 1,300 employees to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Kelvin Jeremiah, president and CEO of the housing authority, announced the mandate on Friday and said all employees will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 15.

“We’re doing this out of necessity,” Jeremiah said, citing concern about the spread of the delta variant.

Jeremiah said he was also concerned about the existing vaccination rate among PHA employees — many of whom come into contact with elderly and vulnerable residents. Only about 60% of employees are fully vaccinated, he said.

Jeremiah said PHA is now the nation’s largest housing authority to mandate vaccination for employees. It’s also the first housing authority in Pennsylvania to do so.

The mandate, which Jeremiah said was negotiated with the unions representing PHA employees, includes potential exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Employees must apply for an exemption by Sept. 8, he said, and they will be considered on an individual basis.

The Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, led by John Dougherty, represents the largest number of PHA employees. Spokesperson Frank Keel confirmed Friday that the building trades leadership supported the vaccine mandate.

» READ MORE: Vaccines now mandatory for 20,000 Philly school district staff

The housing authority’s decision adds another group of workers to the list of people in the city who fall under vaccine mandates. The Philadelphia school board this week voted to require vaccination for all school employees. And city employees will be required to be vaccinated by Sept. 1, or wear two masks while at work. The city will also require all new hires after Sept. 1 to be fully vaccinated.

Philadelphia has also required vaccination for all health-care workers, as well as employees and students of higher-education institutions in the city.

After the Oct. 15 deadline for PHA employees to get vaccinated, Jeremiah said, “we’ll be taking disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

Jeremiah said he does not know the vaccination rate among the 30,000 residents of PHA-owned housing. More than 1,500 residents got vaccinated through PHA-run clinics and outreach earlier this year, he said. Also, PHA, in partnership with Temple University Health System, has a walk-in clinic open four days a week at Vaux Community Center in Sharswood.

“Anyone wanting to get the vaccine can go to the Vaux - Temple Health clinic,” he said, which has “virtually no wait” at any given time.