A Truman Medical Center nurse fills a syringe with a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by Zachary Linhares/The Beacon

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Two-thirds of Kansas City, Missouri’s 4,233 city employees were vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of July. But the city refuses to release vaccination percentages for individual departments, making it impossible to tell whether some departments are lagging behind.

In a public records request, The Kansas City Beacon asked for the number and percentage of employees vaccinated broken down by department in order to determine which departments have higher vaccine hesitancy — and if employees of those departments interact with the public regularly. The city denied the request, citing a fear of identifying employees if it released data on smaller departments. The Beacon did not ask for individual names.

“We feel as though our smaller departments’ employees’ records could be identified with the vaccination percentage given,” the city said in an email response to the request. 

The city released vaccine percentages in only two categories: field and city hall. 

The field category, which includes departments like aviation, parks, water, fire and public works, is 65% vaccinated, up from 56% in June. Out of 3,536 employees, 902 are still undergoing monthly COVID-19 tests. The numbers do not include the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.

The city hall category is made up of 697 employees, 67% of which are vaccinated. There are 161 employees still undergoing monthly testing. 

Some departments, like the Kansas City Fire Department, have previously released specific vaccine percentages. Tim Dupin, the union president for IAFF Local 42, which represents fire department employees in the greater Kansas City area, told The Kansas City Beacon in July that around 80% of department employees had been vaccinated. 

“We’re hopeful that it won’t affect our staff as much as it had initially before the vaccination process and that we’ll be able to keep up to and keep people and our employees on the streets,” he said in a July interview. 

Kansas City’s requirement for unvaccinated city employees to be tested monthly was put in place June 4. Jackson County intends to implement a stricter policy, and will require weekly testing for unvaccinated county employees starting Sept. 30. 

Other government jurisdictions, like New York City and California, also mandate weekly testing for unvaccinated city employees. Some cities, like San Francisco, will require their employees to get vaccinated once the FDA gives full approval to a vaccine.

In a tweet Aug. 3, City Manager Brian Platt said that while the 66% vaccination rate for all city employees was higher than the 40% rate for Kansas City as a whole, the numbers show there is “much more work to be done.”

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Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter with a focus on telling meaningful stories through data at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member.