MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council is exploring the idea of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all town employees.
"At this point it's under consideration. We are reviewing it," Council President Rick Bella said.
The issue will be up for discussion during the council's April 13 meeting, he said.
No vote will be taken and the public will be allowed to weigh in.
"It's an idea we are floating out there because our employees have contact with the public. We are just trying to be, as we have been, overboard on caution," Bella said.
The state has opened the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to any person age 16 and older, which means all 165 town employees are eligible to receive it.
Bella said town officials understand there could be some employees who are unable to receive vaccines for religious or medical reasons, and release forms would be provided in those situations.
“With anything mandatory, there’s always exceptions,” Bella said.
Town officials believe many employees already have been vaccinated, but it isn’t yet known how many have received their shots.
“We’re kind of doing a little survey to see how many people are left out there that have not been vaccinated,” Bella said.
Police and firefighters have already been vaccinated. And employees in the planning and building departments and clerk-treasurer's office have had their spaces retrofitted with plexiglass, so safety factors have been built in.
The council has had the town legal counsel check on the legality of making the shots mandatory, Bella said.
As the council considers the vaccine requirement, the municipality has worked with the state to use Merrillville’s Dean & Barbara White Community Center as a vaccination site for the Pfizer vaccine, Bella said.
The state requested the town open the center at 6600 Broadway from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 7-9 to administer first doses.
The facility also is expected to be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 28-30 for second doses.
Hoosiers can visit ourshot.in.gov or call 211 to schedule vaccinations.
In addition to matters involving the COVID-19 vaccine, the town also has reviewed how it will handle face coverings.
Bella said Merrillville will continue to require people to wear a mask or other face covering when visiting any town-owned building. Municipal employees also must continue to wear face coverings while working.
“We want to do it to keep everyone safe,” Bella said.
He said it’s up to local businesses to create their own mask policies.
Bella said the town has taken many steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and the municipality will continue to take precautions.
“We’re going to not let our guard down yet,” he said.
Bella said Merrillville was one of the first communities in Northwest Indiana to put a mask mandate in place before the state required it.
"We have taken it very seriously from Day 1," Bella said.