The union representing San Francisco sheriff’s deputies said Friday a number of its officers will quit or retire early if they are forced to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Under a mandate issued last month, city employees who work in the jails or other high-risk settings are required to be vaccinated by Sept. 15 or risk losing their jobs.
The San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association said on its Facebook page Friday that about 160 of 600 sheriff employees are rejecting the vaccine due to religious or other beliefs, and would rather wear masks or test weekly.
“If deputy sheriffs are forced to vaccinate a percentage of them will retire early or seek employment elsewhere,” the statement said.
The union said the staffing level at the sheriff’s office is already low, and that the loss of more deputies will affect public safety. It is asking the city to follow state guidelines, which offer employees the option of testing regularly.
City officials denounced the union’s position, coming days after seven Bay Area counties reinstated indoor masking requirements to stem transmission of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
“There is also an undue and unacceptable health and safety risk that is imposed upon the city, our employees and the public we serve, by those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19,” the city’s Department of Human Resources said in a statement. “Vaccines are safe, effective and readily available to our employees.”
About 16% of sheriff’s deputies, 17% of police and 9.5% of fire department employees were not vaccinated as of Friday, according to city data obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Meanwhile, the average unvaccinated rate across all city departments is 7.7%.
Nancy Crowley, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said officials are working with the human resources department to obtain full compliance by the deadline.