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Bynum: Vaccine mandate for city workers would be 'harmful' amid staffing challenges in Tulsa and beyond
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Bynum: Vaccine mandate for city workers would be 'harmful' amid staffing challenges in Tulsa and beyond

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TPD Vaccine

Tulsa Police Department employees are vaccinated in early 2021 against COVID-19. On Friday, Mayor G.T. Bynum said: "One of the most harmful things we could do (amid police and firefighter shortages) would be to try and require and mandate vaccination among the employees in those departments."

While celebrating city workers’ response to an incentive program for vaccinations against COVID-19, Mayor G.T. Bynum said he will not consider a mandate for first responders.

“I think it would have a harmful impact on public safety staffing in Tulsa,” he said Friday in an update on the city’s pandemic response efforts.

Similar mandates, he said, have made news recently in New York City, where concerns now focus on the percentage of first responders threatening to quit over being forced to get vaccinated.

“You’ve seen Oklahoma City (Police Department) initially proposed doing that for their academies and then backed off of it,” Bynum noted.

He said he hasn’t even requested the city legal department look into whether first responders’ local collective bargaining agreements allow for something like a vaccine mandate.

“The reality is we are facing significant workforce shortages in both the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa Fire Department, and we are pursuing really creative ways to try to boost staffing levels in each of those departments,” Bynum said. “One of the most harmful things we could do along those lines would be to try and require and mandate vaccination among the employees in those departments.”

As of Friday, about 64% of city employees had submitted proof of vaccination as part of an incentive program offering a $250 stipend for participation. Bynum said 63% of Tulsa Police Department and 911 employees and 41% of Tulsa Fire Department employees have submitted proof of vaccination.

When asked about the impact of the federal vaccine requirement for larger companies, Bynum said the concerns would only increase city of Tulsa employees were included.

“If we find out we are mandated by the federal government ... that is going to potentially jeopardize our workforce levels,” he said, adding the supply of testing materials locally also would likely be strained.

“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve had to weigh different pros and cons. ... Putting in a mandate like that could have severe repercussions from a staffing level standpoint that impacts the safety of every single person in our community, far beyond issues related to the pandemic.”

Featured video:

Oct. 14, 2021 video. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says he does not support requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.

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