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Flu shots mandatory for DeKalb employees except conscientious objectors

By Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

DeKalb County Government employees will be required to get their flu shot by the end of October unless they declare as a conscientious objector.

This week, DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond passed two executive orders to urge residents and require county employees to get the seasonal influenza vaccine. The orders are part of the county’s preparation for the “twin-demic” of the new coronavirus and the upcoming flu season, according to a news release.

“The flu vaccine protects you, as well as your loved ones and friends,” Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, DeKalb’s District Health Director, said in the release. “Flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are very similar at the onset, so it’s critical to maximize prevention of the flu by getting the vaccine.”

The order aimed at county employees states that they should receive the flu vaccine by Oct. 31 and should follow all CDC recommendations. A clause allows for employees to decline vaccination on the basis of medical, religious or other beliefs, but they must give written notification to their supervisor.

This summer, the county had to revisit its mask mandate to add an exemption for conscientious objectors to avoid a potential legal battle with the state.

Many public health experts have shown concern that the number of patients affected by both viruses could heavily strain healthcare systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also warned Americans that cases of the seasonal flu and the new coronavirus could begin increasing this month and could spread more quickly during the fall and winter months.

The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a flu vaccination, with rare exceptions. The public health agency offers online resources for both influenza and COVID-19.

The county will offer free flu shots at various locations throughout October for employees, who are allowed to go during work hours if needed, the order said. The county government is also partnering with the DeKalb County Board of Health and Kaiser Permanente to host several flu vaccination clinics for county employees during October.

For more information on the county’s flu clinics, visit dekalbhealth.net/flu or call 404-294-3700.