SAN JOSE, Calif. - In what could be an unprecedented move in California, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Tuesday announced his idea to make all city employees and visitors who enter city-owned facilities to get a booster shot or third round of vaccinations.
His office said that if the proposal passes the City Council vote, San Jose could become the first city in the Golden State with such a mandate, where employees could be terminated if they don't. The issue will be heard at the Rules Committee on Jan. 5.
Currently, San Jose requires proof of full vaccination to all city-owned facilities such as the SAP Center, Convention Center, Montgomery Theater, San Jose Civic and Center for Performing Arts. But requiring a booster would go that one extra step.
"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. "We must take decisive action to protect our workforce and our community, and a booster mandate will help."
San Jose sits in the heart of Santa Clara County, where its health director, Dr. Sara Cody, is one of the most forward-thinking COVID thinkers in the country.
Cody last week noted there were 10 official omicron cases in the county, but she anticipated there would be a "deluge" of this variant. At the time, she said there are 250,000 Santa Clara County residents 50 years of age and older who still have not received their booster shot.
There will surely be pushback to the plan.
This fall, San Jose firefighter and police unions pushed back on the city's vaccine mandate for employees. Dozens of people opposed to mandated vaccines protested outside City Hall, saying requiring a vaccine violated their freedoms.
The omicron COVID-19 variant is now the most dominant strain in the United States, accounting for more than 73% of new COVID-19 cases less than three weeks after the first was reported, according to estimates posted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC data continues to show the rate of infection among the unvaccinated exceeds that of the vaccinated by five times and the rate of death by 13 times.
Currently, there is evidence from federal health authorities that shows a third shot can substantially reduce the incidence of serious illness.
A study was also published demonstrating a booster shot from Moderna increases COVID antibodies 37-fold against the omicron variant. Pfizer and BioNTech published a similar study.
If the proposal passes, the following exceptions would be allowed: People who received their second dose of the vaccination within the last six months and children who are currently ineligible.
Liccardo also proposed considering the purchase of any software or equipment that would facilitate more rapid and less labor-intensive verification of vaccinations. Current rules applicable to religious exemptions and sanctions for noncompliance would remain in effect.