California State University faculty, students and staff will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine to use university facilities during the spring 2022 term, the CSU chancellor’s office said Wednesday.
Students and staff will be required to get a booster vaccine dose by Feb. 28, 2022, or six months after they receive the last dose of their initial vaccine series, whichever comes later.
The policy will also allow individual campuses to require booster vaccinations earlier than the Feb. 28 deadline, according to the chancellor’s office.
“Implementing the booster requirement now will help mitigate the potential spread of the variant on campuses as they repopulate in January after the winter break,” CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro said in a statement.
Castro announced the CSU’s initial vaccination requirement for the fall term in July, arguing that the then-emerging delta variant would necessitate vaccine protection for everyone attending classes in person or working on campus.
In announcing the booster policy, Castro cited concern about the omicron variant, which initial research has found to be even more transmissible than previous variants.
While unvaccinated people continue to test positive for the virus at a disproportionate rate on average to fully vaccinated people, health officials in recent weeks have urged that omicron’s high transmissibility makes an additional vaccine dose necessary to maintain an effective immune response.
Union-represented employees will not be included in the requirement until the university system has completed meet-and-confer negotiations with the labor unions representing faculty and staff, according to Castro’s office.
The California Faculty Association — which represents professors and lecturers at all 23 CSU campuses — said in a statement that it will meet with CSU officials in the coming weeks to discuss the policy.
In July, CFA president Charles Toombs expressed support for the initial mandate and noted that he had already gotten vaccinated.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of CSU’s students, faculty and staff,” Toombs said in Wednesday’s statement.
In its own statement, the CSU Employees Union echoed Toombs in saying the CSU system’s health and safety should always be prioritized.
“Having lived and worked in a Covid world for more than two years now, we firmly believe in following the guidance of medical experts,” the union said. “The data is clear: Vaccines work.”
According to a spokesperson for the chancellor’s office, the CSU system does not track granular vaccination data but has received voluntary reports from CSU campuses, which the university system has used to extrapolate systemwide figures.
As of November, estimates of nearly 427,000 CSU students and more than 50,000 employees had proven their full vaccination status, equivalent to roughly 95 percent of students attending classes in person and 96 percent of faculty and staff.
Like the initial requirement, the booster vaccination mandate will include carveouts for students and staff that have documented medical or religious exemptions.
An estimated 4 percent of students and 3 percent of faculty and staff requested religious exemptions to the initial mandate and 1 percent of both groups sought a medical exemption.
Castro’s announcement comes one day after University of California President Dr. Michael Drake said the UC system will also require its students, faculty and staff to get a COVID-19 booster vaccine if and when they are eligible.
According to Castro’s office, the CSU’s requirement will take effect immediately once it is implemented and the university plans to make the formal policy public once it is finalized.