San Jose mayor announces proposal to require COVID vaccine booster dose for city employees

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced a proposal Tuesday to require city employees to get a COVID-19 booster vaccination as a condition of employment.

The proposal would also apply to people who visit city-owned facilities like the SAP Center and the San Jose Convention Center.

MORE: COVID's surge, omicron's threat, boosters' protection: What to know about next chapter in pandemic

The city already requires employees and visitors to city-owned facilities to have completed their initial vaccination series.

If passed by the City Council, San Jose could become the first city in the state to require an additional vaccine dose beyond the initial series, according to Liccardo's office.

"To avoid crippling levels of hospitalizations and tragic outcomes, we have the great benefit of widespread access to booster shots, but we lack the benefit of time," Liccardo said in a statement. "We must take decisive action to protect our workforce and our community, and a booster mandate will help."

The council approved its initial vaccination requirement in August. That requirement's effective date, initially planned for Oct. 1, was ultimately pushed back to Dec. 31 amid threats that the city could lose more than 100 police officers who refused to get the vaccine.

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Liccardo argued Tuesday that it is the right time to consider requiring a booster vaccine dose as the omicron COVID-19 variant is poised to become the dominant strain in the Bay Area.

Initial studies have shown that the variant is more contagious than previous variants and that the initial two-dose Pfizer and Moderna regimens or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination decline in effectiveness over time.

Santa Clara County's health officer, Dr. Sara Cody, said as much last week, predicting a "deluge of omicron" cases and urging residents to get a subsequent vaccine dose if it has been at least six months since their second dose or two since their one Johnson & Johnson dose.

"The initial vaccine series that 80 percent of our population have gotten isn't enough anymore because the situation on the ground has changed," she said. "And so to be fully up to date with COVID vaccine protection, you need to have a booster."

Liccardo's proposal directs the city manager to work with the labor unions that represent city employees in anticipation that the booster requirement could go into effect as soon as next month.

The proposal also includes exemptions for people who received their second vaccine dose within the last six months, children who are ineligible and people with a documented religious or medical exemption.

Disciplinary action for those who do not comply with the booster mandate would be subject to the same sanctions as the initial vaccination mandate, Liccardo said, up to and including termination.

Liccardo also called for the consideration of buying software or equipment that would make it more efficient to check a person's vaccination status when entering a city-owned building.

The San Jose City Council's Rules Committee is expected to consider the proposal at its next meeting on Jan. 5.

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