CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County's public health staff will soon be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a statement released on Monday, Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) announced that the requirement would go into effect starting Aug. 2, 2021, with a deadline to show proof of vaccination by Sept. 7, 2021. Health Director Gibbie Harris says this comes as COVID-19 cases climb across the county.
“As public health staff, we have led the COVID-19 response efforts for the County and know too well the very high level of sickness, death, and impact the pandemic has had in our community,” said Harris. “Despite significant prevention efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in our community, including new highly contagious variants.”
MCPH says since there are vaccines widely available to the public, leadership believes this effort will protect both its own staff and patients. This requirement also mirrors current requirements for employees to be vaccinated against influenza, and that it's important for MCPH to lead by example for the community.
"As we open up more and more and provide more service, both in the community as well as in our clinics and other settings and things like that, we want to make sure that we protect those people that we serve," Director Harris said in an interview with WCNC Charlotte reporter Lana Harris. "As we've said before, everybody needs to be vaccinated, we need as many people vaccinated in our community as we can. Public Health needs to step up to that, and we are always working and doing everything that we can to protect the people that we serve.
The release did not detail any repercussions employees could face if they refuse to take the vaccine, nor were any details about medical or religious exemptions provided. When Lana Harris asked Director Harris about these exceptions, we were told there is a process for other vaccines already, including medical exemptions.
Director Harris said those seeking a medical exemption require a doctor's note, and religious exemptions were allowed. However, those who claim exemptions will need to be masked up at all times. Those who refuse a COVID-19 shot -- just like other vaccines - will need to wear a mask at all times and face disciplinary action.