The Commonwealth Ports Authority has officially adopted mandatory vaccination for all its employees.
Following a board meeting last Friday, CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said the board officially voted to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all its staff by March 1.
However, a CPA employee has raised various concerns, including the possibility of extending the deadline to get vaccinated, only mandating vaccination for employees who come in contact with passengers, and postponing mandatory vaccination until there is a vaccine that’s already available and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are being administered in the CNMI have “Emergency-Use” authorization from the FDA.
According to a written comment from a CPA employee who withheld their identity, CPA should provide ample time for CPA management to conduct an outreach for its employees and the March 1 deadline does not provide enough time for one.
“I would like to request the board extend the March 1 vaccination deadline for the first dosage to April 1 to ensure that CPA management conducts outreach to employees regarding the vaccinations and what would happen if an employee fails to get vaccinated by the deadline,” the comment stated.
In addition, the employee stated that mandatory vaccination is a bit extreme when taking into consideration the little to no community transmission in the CNMI.
“Mandatory vaccination is an extreme measure when considering the local statistics on community-based infections. CPA staff, most if not all, do not come in contact with passengers. Mandating vaccinations to personnel who come in contact with passengers is fair, those who do not should be held to least restrictive measures,” the employee said.
Lastly, the employee was concerned that the current vaccine available is not FDA-approved and proposes that vaccination of all employees be made mandatory once an FDA-approved vaccine is available.
“The vaccine is not FDA-approved, but rather authorized through the Emergency Authorization. I believe the vaccine at its current stage is not advantageous. With the CNMI community’s statistics on community-based infections, is CPA able to postpone the vaccination mandate until an FDA approved vaccine exists?” asked the employee.
In a previous interview with King-Hinds, she said the only way at this point that CPA can protect its employees and the community “is if we drive home the importance” of getting everyone vaccinated.
“Our health is our wealth and CPA employees, whether they be first responders or administrative support, are at the front-line by virtue of their place of employment. Our airports and the seaports are first points of entry in the CNMI and, as we slowly open up those points of entries, we have a duty to ensure that all our employees are safe and protected,” she said.