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Vaccination rates high among public workers, educators in Portland

The deadline for many workers to get the vaccine has come and gone. Only a small fraction of employees opted out of getting their shot.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Monday, Oct. 18 marked the deadline for many workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The vast majority of employees for the city of Portland, as well as Multnomah County, got their shots. Come Tuesday, only a small fraction will be let go and no longer have a job. 

The number of city workers subject to the vaccine policy is 6,146, according to a spokesperson. That includes all city employees except for the Portland Police Bureau, whose members are exempt from the mandate. 91% of city workers are fully vaccinated, and little more than 50 employees are in the process of getting vaccinated. Three hundred and forty-two got approved for medical or religious exceptions. Ninety-one people are leaving their city positions, and job status is pending for nearly 50 more. 

As for the county's 5,600 workers, just 35 people are accepting a separation due to the mandate. Of that number, only eight are regular, full-time workers. 

Vaccinations are also high among educators and staff for Portland Public Schools (PPS). On Tuesday, PPS announced that over 96.3% of the 7,427 employees reported being fully vaccinated and 1.3% have had at least the first dose. 

"We have over 96% of our staff fully vaccinated, and a little over an additional 1% — 89 people — who are partially vaccinated," said Chief of Human Resources Sharon Reese. "Our employees that are partially vaccinated are eligible for a temporary medical exemption while they complete the vaccination process. I’m very pleased that the 89, 90 people who are partially vaccinated will continue to work as opposed to being placed on leave."

About 158 PPS employees, or 1.3%, requested a medical or religious exemption and 111 of the requests were approved, according to a news release on Tuesday. PPS said the vaccine mandate will have minimal impacts in classrooms and across the school district. Five classroom educators were let go, while 16 people out of about 340 custodial staff were terminated.

Several weeks ago, Reese said the district was expecting even more employees to part ways over the new requirement. 

"In the last 60 days since the announcement of the vaccine mandates, we have had over 200 employees who went and got their first dose. So we know that it's made a difference in people's decision around whether they were going to get vaccinated."

Reese explained that it's been a tremendous effort to verify the vaccination status of nearly 8,000. She said substitutes are already in place to take over for the handful of teachers that are leaving. 

The district wants to hear from families about a possible vaccination requirement for eligible students. Click here to find out more about the virtual town hall meetings. 

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