MOUNT JACKSON — All Town of Mount Jackson employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1.

The Mount Jackson Town Council on Tuesday approved the vaccination requirement by a 4-2 vote with Dennis Andrick and Whitney Miller dissenting.

The town has 20 employees, 19 full-time and 1 part-time.

Town Council member Rod Shepherd brought up the idea during a discussion about whether people entering the town office should have to wear masks.

Shepherd said he was worried about what might happen with insurance premiums.

“Since June 1, the estimated medical bills for the unvaccinated people that contracted COVID is now at $6 billion,” Shepherd said. “That’s basically over three months over expenses that they have occurred. I worry what the health insurance company will do when getting ready for the new policies, and they say ‘oh by the way what percentage of your staff is vaccinated?’ And we say ‘oh we got six people that don’t want to be vaccinated.’ What’s that going to do to our premium?”

Mount Jackson Town Manager Neil Showalter said there are at least eight unvaccinated staff members, although one of those has received their first shot.

As part of Shepherd’s motion, anyone with a severe medical issue or a doctor’s excuse can discuss their particular case with Showalter. The motion also requires unvaccinated individuals to wear masks when they are in a closed area.

Andrick, the only council member who wasn’t wearing a mask during the meeting, said he didn’t believe they should require employees to get vaccinated.

“I don’t think we have the right to force them to get vaccinated,” Andrick said.

Miller said state employees, if they are not vaccinated, have to be tested every week. There was discussion about having unvaccinated town employees being tested weekly, but the council members weren’t sure who would have to pay for the testing.

Council member Bonnie Good was passionate about the need for everyone to get vaccinated.

“This discussion makes me so uncomfortable, because I cannot understand people not wanting to make their environment safer for everybody,” Good said. “I can’t understand it.”

Andrick said that even people who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19. Good replied that vaccines significantly reduce the chances of dying from the virus.

“The overall problem is that this virus is dangerous,” Good said. “And it’s dangerous to everybody, even children. And the only way we can protect each other and protect ourselves is to get some inoculation to try and prevent it from spreading. That’s the bottom line.”

Shepherd said it’s important to protect the staff.

“I strongly encourage to get our town staff vaccinated, because they’re good people,” he said. “And I want to see them protected. They’re hard-working folks.”

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