Note: The story was updated with a correction that the Archdiocese of Agaña is not issuing letters of exemption. It does support people's rights to seek religious exemptions for vaccines.
Nine requests for exemption from the governor's COVID-19 vaccine mandate have been disapproved, while four have been granted so far, Department of Public Health and Social Services spokesperson Janela Carrera said Friday.
Carrera said the approved and disapproved requests cited medical reasons for seeking exemptions from being vaccinated.
DPHSS returned three other requests for vaccine exemption because more information was required from the requesters.
Overall, DPHSS received about 175 requests for vaccine mandate exemption, as well as exemption from COVID-19 testing. The requests are from employees of government of Guam line agencies and private sector businesses.
DPHSS updated its application form for requesting a vaccination exemption for medical reasons.
But some of those who previously filed an exemption request using the old form have not resubmitted a request using the revised form, Carrera said.
Carrera said processing requests for exemptions on religious grounds remains on hold because of ongoing consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.
The Archdiocese of Agaña has said it’s not issuing letters of vaccine exemptions but supports the right of people to seek religious exemptions. Additionally, the Archdiocese emphasizes the vaccinations should be voluntary in line with the teaching of the Catholic church.
DPHSS, moreover, also continues to consult with the OAG on the processing of exemption requests for medical reasons from private sector employees, Carrera said.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's COVID-19 vaccine mandate covered private sector employees, including those working at restaurants and bars.
But DPHSS has been trying to clarify with the OAG whether the private sector employer should be the one to enforce the vaccine mandate and approve any request for vaccine exemptions if there is certification or approval from a doctor, among other things.
While waiting for final decisions on exemption requests, unvaccinated employees covered by the mandate can continue to work.
However, they are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
For some private sector businesses in Guam, the local vaccine mandate could become moot once the Biden administration's workplace vaccine mandate takes effect. Under federal rules, workers at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, or get tested for the virus weekly.
However, many of Guam's employers have fewer than 100 workers, DPHSS said.
At this point, DPHSS is trying to clarify which agency is to enforce the federal vaccine mandate on Guam companies with 100 or more employees, Carrera said.