Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File
A health worker prepares a dosage of COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Centennial Hall on Feb. 11. A surge in vaccine availability means more people can get the vaccine, but so far few people are being required to get it.

Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File A health worker prepares a dosage of COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Centennial Hall on Feb. 11. A surge in vaccine availability means more people can get the vaccine, but so far few people are being required to get it.

What’s your vaccine policy? Here’s what Juneau’s largest employers are doing

The shot is highly recommended by private and public employers.

A surge of vaccine doses has city and state officials setting up extra clinics and encouraging citizens to get vaccinated, but some are concerned about getting vaccinated and have raised concerns they may be required to as a condition of employment.

Under federal law, an employer can mandate an employee to receive a vaccine with some exceptions, but many of Juneau’s largest employers aren’t. According to City and Borough of Juneau data, the State of Alaska is the largest employer in the city, followed by the federal government, the Juneau School District and the city government.

None of those employers are mandating their employers be vaccinated. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has been emphatic the vaccine is voluntary and that no state employees would be required to receive the shot.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is not, and will not be, mandated for state employees,” said Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Clinton Bennett in an email. “We ask all Alaskans to educate themselves using trusted sources like DHSS and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to decide if they want to receive the vaccine.”

[Appointments fill up quick as vaccine eligibility expands]

Even employees working with vulnerable populations aren’t being required to receive the vaccine. Juneau Pioneer Home employees are not being required to get vaccinated, according to administrator Gina Delrosario, and vaccines are being offered to both staff and offenders in the Department of Corrections said spokesperson Sarah Gallagher, but not mandated.

In the Juneau School District, most staff members are willfully getting vaccinated, said chief of staff Kristin Bartlett, but the vaccine is similarly voluntary.

“So far, 395 JSD employees are at least partially vaccinated, and another 215 have said that they intend to get vaccinated as soon as they can,” Bartlett said in an email. “We expect that after CBJ’s next first dose shot clinic next week that 80% of our roughly 750 employees will be on their way to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said the city was not mandating but strongly encouraging the vaccine at this time.

Juneau’s large private sector employers aren’t mandating a vaccine and some, like Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, are offering $100 in store credit to employees who get vaccinated, according to the company. Nationwide, supermarket chains Aldi and Dollar General are offering similar incentives. Safeway and Costco are both offering the vaccine to employees and not requiring it and Trader Joe’s is offering time off to its employees, according to the Seattle Times.

Mike Satre, community relations at Hecla Greens Creek Minning Co. said the company strongly encourages employees to get vaccinated when they’re eligible. Coeur Alaska’s employees at the Kensington Gold Mine are also being encouraged but not mandated to receive the vaccine, according to spokesperson Rochelle Lindley.

In January, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said vaccines should be mandatory for employees, but on March 3, Reuters reported the company was only encouraging vaccinations at this point. Mandates are subject to legal challenge from employees, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on their website, and employers must take precautions to ensure compliance with other federal laws protecting employee privacy.

Eligibility for vaccines was expanded Wednesday and Juneauites quickly filled up the spots at the city’s next vaccine clinic at Centennial Hall.

On Friday, CBJ announced another five-day long vaccine distribution clinic, thanks to a partnership with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Registration for the March 15-20 vaccine clinic will open Monday, March 8 at noon. Appointments can be made at juneau.org/vaccine or by calling 586-6000 once eligibility opens on Monday.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire. Associated Press reporting contributed to this article.

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