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by Fern Shen4:13 pmAug 9, 20210

Housing Authority makes Covid vaccine mandatory for employees

Under the policy, the first by a government agency in Baltimore, workers must get the shot unless they can present “a medical reason” or a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Above: Housing Authority CEO Janet Abrahams makes Covid vaccines mandatory for HABC workers. (@JanetAbrahams)

Baltimore’s public housing agency today announced a mandatory vaccine policy for employees – the first government agency in the city do so.

All 650 employees of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) will have to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 by September 1 unless they have been approved for “a reasonable accommodation for a medical reason” or a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Employees will be paid for time taken to receive vaccinations, but face  consequences for flouting the policy:

Those who do not comply by September 1 deadline will begin a 45-day progressive discipline track, ending in termination for those who do not come into compliance.

Announcing the move, HABC President and CEO Janet Abrahams cited the low vaccination rate among employees.

“We have spent months repeatedly stressing to our employees the importance of getting the shots, yet only about half have submitted proof of vaccination,” Abrahams said in a prepared statement.

According to the agency, 51% of employees are known to be vaccinated.

“With Covid cases increasing, our Board of Commissioners and I felt compelled to protect our co-workers and the residents we serve, especially our seniors and other vulnerable clients,” Abrahams said.

Separate From City Hall

While other jurisdictions and cities around the country have required government employees to get vaccinated, Mayor Brandon Scott has so far declined to take that step.

Last month, Comptroller Bill Henry called on Scott to make the shots a requirement, but the mayor said he was still studying the legal and other ramifications of doing so.

(Scott, noting the recent resurgence in Covid cases, announced last week he would re-impose Baltimore’s indoor mask mandate. It went into effect today.)

As a separate federally funded agency, HABC does not have to follow City Hall directives or policy.

Henry calls for vaccinations or weekly Covid tests for city workers (7/27/21)

According to today’s news release, the HABC board authorized the vaccination mandate in June.

Since then, the authority has hosted a virtual town hall featuring medical experts to answer employees’ questions, according to a release sent out by Kirk Dorn, of Philadelphia-based Ceisler Issues and Media Advocacy.

The agency has also held vaccination clinics for residents and employees at public housing sites.

“This policy was developed to safeguard the health of our employees and their families, our customers and visitors, our residents, and the community at large”  – HABC Board of Commissioners.

Quoting the board, Dorn wrote that “this policy was developed to safeguard the health of our employees and their families, our customers and visitors, our residents, and the community at large from infectious diseases that may be reduced by vaccinations.”

He also noted that the vaccine mandate applies to HABC job applicants as well.

“We’re letting them know when they apply that they will have to be vaccinated in order to work here,” Abrahams said.

– To reach a reporter: editors@baltimorebrew.com

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