BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Ever since the FDA gave final approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, some major employers across the country have started requiring their employees to be vaccinated by this fall, Walmart, Ford, TJ Maxx, MGM Resorts to name a few.
Now there’s discussion within the boardrooms of at least two energy-sector companies with deep Kern County connections to do the same. One is Chevron, the second-largest oil company in the nation, which is apparently taking the pandemic seriously.
It’s requiring employees who work on offshore oil rigs to be vaccinated by Nov. 1. Same goes for those who work overseas. But what about the 800 employees who work here in Kern County?
They’re encouraged to roll up their sleeves, if they haven’t already, but they’re not required. Not yet. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, the company is considering the feasibility of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all 47,000 employees.
However, a local Chevron spokesman said the company has no plans to require vaccinations for employees in its San Joaquin Valley Business Unit, but will abide by any applicable laws that might direct Chevron to do otherwise.
Chevron did recently order its employees to work remotely again after having allowed them to return to local corporate offices.
Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan said businesses are free to make their own decisions about vaccinating employees.
“Asking their employees to do something that would prevent the transmission of COVID-19 is a great thing to do,” she said, “but I think you also need to give them alternatives as well. The facts show that over 99% of our cases are in those that are unvaccinated. The facts show that vaccination is the safest, most effective way to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.”
Chevron, which has had COVID outbreaks in the Gulf of Mexico and the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, is not the only oil and gas company that is concerned with the rising number of infections.
Schlumberger, the top oilfield service company in the U.S., which has a substantial presence in Kern County, is asking its domestic employees to disclose their vaccination status because more and more of its customers are mandating vaccinations as a condition for working on their job sites.
Bakersfield-based Aera Energy, one of the state’s largest oil producers, said in a statement it has no immediate plans to require its employees to be vaccinated.
Requests for comment from Schlumberger as well as Bakersfield-based Berry Petroleum were not immediately returned.
Pressure is mounting on unvaccinated Americans to either face the needle or face consequences — most likely money or convenience. But if you’re a Bakersfield employee of Chevron, you still have choices. For now.