I had a new issue arise this week regarding vaccines. We are fully involved in vaccine mandates now, but the new issue is whether or not employers can mandate vaccine booster shots.
Over the last several weeks, the FDA has approved COVID vaccine booster shots for varied demographic groups.
According to the FDA Commissioner the available data suggests “waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated.” Therefore, the FDA issued “emergency use authorizations” for the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Those folks who originally received the Pfizer vaccine have been eligible to receive Pfizer boosters since September.
Folks who received the Moderna vaccine will be eligible to get a booster six months after their second shot, while those who received the J&J vaccine can get a booster two months after their only shot. In addition, the FDA has approved mix and match vaccinations on the booster, meaning, for example, that if you got J&J the first time, you can get Pfizer for a booster. This is called heterologous boosting.
Currently, boosters for those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will only be available for people aged 65 and older or for those aged 18 to 64 with health conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness from COVID. This group includes healthcare workers, teachers, and those working or living in homeless shelters or prisons.
For those who received the J&J vaccine, boosters are recommended regardless of age or health factors.
On Friday, the CDC director said that given the new authorizations for boosters, the U.S. may alter or update its definition of “fully vaccinated.” This is where the issue of mandating boosters comes in.
Under the Connecticut vaccine mandate issued by Governor Lamont in Executive Order 13G, “fully vaccinated” is defined as meaning that “at least 14 days have elapsed since a person has received the final dose of a vaccine approved for use against COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or as otherwise defined by the Centers for Disease Control.”
The mandate currently requires covered workers to be “fully vaccinated” by September 27, 2021, or to “have received the first dose and have either received a second dose or have an appointment for the second dose in a two-dose series vaccination, such as Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. . . .”
But if the FDA and the CDC are now saying that boosters are recommended for those who have otherwise been considered “fully vaccinated,” then it is likely to occur that in order to continue to comply with the mandate, workers will be required to get a third vaccine dose, or a second dose if originally in receipt of the J&J vaccine.
Notwithstanding any governmental vaccine mandate applying to covered workers, some private employers not covered by the governmental mandate may also decide to mandate a booster vaccine for their workers. Under the law as it currently stands, employers in Connecticut may do so in order to ensure the health of their employees and their customers and vendors.
This means that given the recommendations of the FDA and the CDC we are likely to begin seeing booster mandates from employers. The same analysis that has applied to the original one or two-shot vaccines will also apply when it comes to booster mandates.