CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The City of Charlotte released the results of a survey that showed 62% of employees are partially vaccinated against COVID-19.
"It's good but it's not great, that's why we did the survey to know where we stand at this point," city spokesperson Cory Burkarth said.
The city has 7,740 employees and overall, 95% of the city staff responded to the survey.
The Charlotte Fire Department had the lowest vaccination rate at 49%, the department has around 1,220 employees.
"They're the first ones to show up when you call 911, so for us it's even more important that our first responders are more protected than the rest of the city," Burkarth said.
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt is frustrated, too.
"You know, [I'm] disappointed and a little fearful honestly," she said. "At the end of the day, we all have to do what we can as a functioning society to look out for each other, and vaccinations work."
The Charlotte Fire Department says they 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 it became available.
"God forbid something happens to one or two of them, not only does it take them out of the rotation but if something could spread, the worst-case scenario would be if we lost an entire firehouse," Burkarth said.
Now, the city is rolling out an incentive program to get more shots into arms.
Any City of Charlotte employee who is vaccinated by Sept. 30 will receive $250 and if 75% of the staff are vaccinated by Sept. 30, all vaccinated employees will receive an additional $250. The city needs approximately 1,100 unvaccinated employees to be vaccinated in order to reach the goal.
As of right now, the city does not plan to require employees to be vaccinated.
The City of Charlotte is wanting to see if the incentives work before taking further steps, Eiselt said.
Other options could be an eventual vaccine mandate or paying a higher health premium if you're an unvaccinated worker.
"We've already paid out millions of dollars for healthcare for city workers who've had the coronavirus and had to be hospitalized," Eiselt added. "You know, this is taxpayer money at the end of the day."