SAN FRANCISCO INT’L AIRPORT (KPIX 5) – Nearly 50,000 workers at San Francisco International Airport must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to new rules announced by city officials on Tuesday.

“As SFO prepares for the upcoming holiday travel season, and the return of pre-pandemic passenger levels, we have an obligation to provide a safe airport facility for the traveling public and our on-site employees,” said Airport Director Ivar Satero. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent transmission of COVID-19.”

The requirement, which goes into effect immediately, applies to all airline, service, concession and construction employees. Officials said SFO is the first airport in the U.S. to implement a vaccine requirement.

“This new requirement supports our aggressive measures to protect the health and safety of our region and our continued economic recovery,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “I want to thank SFO for their continued leadership protecting our city and its visitors.”
 
Under the new rules, every airport tenant or contractor must require all on-site personnel to be fully vaccinated. Exemptions can be granted for medical disability or a sincerely held religious belief, but employees who receive exemptions must undergo testing.
Some passengers say vaccine mandates — especially at busy international airports — ultimately make everyone safe.
“We got to win over the virus. And vaccinations seem to be the way to do it. I got my vaccine, didn’t hurt,” said passenger John Lyons, who was traveling through SFO on Tuesday.
The rule also requires airport employers to submit reports on the vaccination status of their workers until all of their personnel are fully vaccinated, or face fines under airport regulations.
“Each company has to report to the airport the status of their workforce — how many people are vaccinated, whether or not they’ve granted any exemptions. And for those who were granted exemptions, those companies are required to have those employees test on a weekly basis,” airport spokesperson Doug Yakel told KPIX 5.
 
Officials said the airport continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines, which are free of charge, at the airport’s medical clinic.
Other passengers, however, questioned the necessity of a mandate if other preventative measures like masks and testing have largely slowed infections.
“I just think about those people who have valid health concerns about the vaccination. Do you not allow them to entry into places?,” says passenger Amna Salahuddin.

San Francisco has already implemented vaccine requirements for all city employees, along with workers in numerous other sectors, including healthcare, education, the restaurant industry and fitness establishments.

Devin Fehely contributed to this report.