After a monthslong legal battle, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said there will no longer be a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for city employees.

Minnesota's capital city follows the lead of Minneapolis and Hennepin County, which dropped their vaccine-or-test policies last month, citing changing federal health guidance. Ramsey County is still requiring new hires to be vaccinated, but unvaccinated workers no longer have to take weekly COVID-19 tests.

St. Paul's vaccine policy, which was considered especially strict, was never enforced. Unlike other public employers in Minnesota, St. Paul did not want to give city workers the option to test regularly if they chose not to get the vaccine.

Three unions representing city workers challenged the mayor's mandate in Ramsey County District Court, and a judge sided with them in June, saying state labor laws require the city to negotiate the matter with the unions or seek interest arbitration.

In July, the city appealed that ruling. On Monday, the city dropped its appeal.

"While we do not agree with the district court's decision, achievement of high vaccination rates among our employees and the ending of the requirement eliminated the need to continue the appeal," Kamal Baker, Carter's press secretary, said in a statement.

Baker also cited "low community risk level in Ramsey County" as a factor in the mayor's decision to stop requiring proof of vaccination.

"I will forever be grateful for your efforts and contributions throughout the course of the pandemic — including the high percentage of you who did join in getting vaccinated — to ensure we emerged from the crisis more resilient than ever, and into a position where such a requirement is no longer necessary," Carter said in an email to city staff Friday.

Mike Smith, president of Firefighters Local 21, said his members were happy to hear Carter's decision, which came nearly a year after the union sued the city. When attempting to roll out its vaccine policy, St. Paul said it would give employees exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but others who remained unvaccinated could face disciplinary action or termination.

"Having this all drawn out this long was very stressful for some that had a tough decision to make," Smith said. "We just wish we could have came together earlier to come to a resolution."

The St. Paul Police Federation and the Tri-Council — which represents city workers belonging to International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49, Teamsters Local 120 and the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 363 — also filed lawsuits challenging the vaccine mandate.

"We're pleased the city of St. Paul finally came to its senses and stopped wasting taxpayer dollars on prolonged litigation," Jason George, business manager for Local 49, said in a statement.

In Carter's note to staff, he said more 2,700 of the city's roughly 4,000 employees received COVID-19 vaccines.

"Thanks to so many of you doing your part, alongside countless others across our community, state and nation, we've finally moved beyond the most challenging phase of the global public health crisis," the mayor wrote, encouraging workers to continue getting vaccinations and booster shots if they haven't already.