Pritzker extends deadline again for state workers to get COVID-19 shots; fourth deal with unions struck
State workers in congregate settings, such as prisons and veterans' homes, now have until Oct. 26 to get their first COVID-19 vaccination after Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended a deadline for shots last week.
On Monday, Pritkzer announced a fourth agreement on COVID-19 inoculations with about 470 employees working for multiple trade unions.
The vaccine requirements affect employees in the Veterans' Affairs, Corrections, Juvenile Justice and Human Services departments.
It's the second time the deadline has been stretched. Pritzker announced an initial Oct. 4 date for vaccinations in August amid a surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant of COVID-19. He later pushed that target forward to Oct. 14.
Now, state workers in the four departments have until Nov. 30 to be fully inoculated if they are using Moderna or Pfizer's two-dose vaccines.
So far, "we've reached agreements with four unions and are at the table with others," Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.
Other unions that have settled with the state include the Illinois Nurses Association, Illinois Federation of Public Employees, and VR-704 representing supervisors at the departments of corrections and juvenile justice. The deals allowed an exemption process for medical or religious reasons.
Nearly 2,000 employees are covered in the four union deals. But negotiations are still continuing with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 that represents thousands of state workers.
AFSCME officials have called the COVID-19 vaccines "safe and effective," and noted they are encouraging members to get shots. But the union also said it "opposes coercive vaccine mandates that threaten termination or other punitive measures against those who do not get vaccinated."
State officials said unvaccinated workers "pose a significant risk to individuals in Illinois' congregate facilities." Those who refuse to get vaccinated will face disciplinary measures that could lead to being fired.
Also Monday, state Rep. Tom Weber, a Fox Lake Republican, announced he had filed legislation that would ban the Illinois Department of Public Health from mandating schoolchildren to get COVID-19 vaccines, saying it is a decision for parents.
Pritzker has previously said the state is not considering a vaccine requirement for schoolchildren.