West Tisbury employees, interns and volunteers have until Sept. 30 to show proof of full vaccination against Covid-19, officials ruled Wednesday at an unprecedented joint meeting of the seven elected boards that separately hold hiring and appointing power over town workers.

Municipal workers can seek exemptions from the vaccination mandate for medical or religious reasons only, town labor attorney Jack Collins told some 40 members of the select board, board of health, finance committee, planning board, board of assessors, library trustees and parks and recreation committee who gathered on Zoom late in the afternoon.

“Everything’s on an individual basis,” Mr. Collins said, describing the process of qualifying an employee’s request for a medical exemption.

“You address that person . . . privately, [and] you give them an opportunity to present any information they have — presumably a note from a doctor that explains why it is medically they’re not suitable for this,” he said, adding: “They might have an underlying medical condition. They might be allergic to something in the vaccine, things like that. If that were the case, then you’d look and see if you could make some kind of a reasonable accommodation.”

Wednesday’s unusual joint meeting of all the elected bodies overseeing town workers came following the board of health’s vote last week to recommend the vaccination mandate. West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson cited the Island’s rising infection rate in his appeal for seven yes votes.

“Just today, 22 cases were reported. There were 87 last week, 10 yesterday and I believe 11 on Monday, so numbers are going up,” Mr. Johnson said.

Epidemiological studies have shown that vaccines are 55 per cent effective against infections, 80 per cent effective against symptomatic infections and 90 per cent effective against hospitalizations, Mr. Johnson said.

“We need to do all that we can in the interest of public health, which as you know represents the greater interest of everyone,” the health agent said.

Explaining the process for employees who are exempt, Mr. Collins said accommodations might involve working from home, frequent Covid-19 testing or other individual arrangements depending on the worker and their duties.

Requests for religious exemptions will follow the same interactive process, with Mr. Collins cautioning town officials that court rulings have established a broad definition of religion as a “sincerely held” belief.

“Believe it or not, even an atheist can have a sincerely held religious belief about not wanting to be vaccinated,” he said.

“You’d have to have a really good-faith dialogue, to see if in fact what they’re asking is something that you can accommodate.”

At worst, if an exemption-seeking worker’s duties require being with the public or other employees, Mr. Collins advised placing them on unpaid leave until the Covid-19 crisis abates.

“We’re not recommending in general that employers decided to terminate somebody in this kind of situation,” he said. “You want to give every opportunity to somebody to try to resolve any problems they have.”

There is no legal requirement to accommodate workers who object to vaccination on other than qualified medical or legal grounds, he also said.

In the end six of the seven boards and committees voted unanimously in favor of the vaccination mandate. Exemption requests will be sent through town administrator Jennifer Rand for legal review by Mr. Collins. The Sept. 30 date was chosen to allow time for the two inoculations taken four weeks apart.

Only the board of assessors failed to support the vaccination mandate, splitting 1-1 between members Maria McFarland, who voted in favor, and chairman Michael Colaneri, who at first delayed calling the board to order and later voted no.

While saying he does support vaccinations, Mr. Colaneri said he opposes the mandate.

“To my knowledge, no one on the Vineyard has died yet — not that that’s an indicator,” he said. “I think that the mask mandate has worked well. I think individuals have a responsibility to do as much as they possibly can.”

While the split vote means that assessors workers technically are not covered by the mandate, the select board could vote to require full vaccination for anyone working at town hall, Mr. Collins said.

“I encourage the board of selectmen to take that motion,” Ms. McFarland said. Select board chairman Skipper Manter said they would slate it for next Wednesday’s regular meeting.