People Without a Booster Will Be Barred From This, as of Feb. 1
This new strengthened vaccine mandate comes as Omicron continues to spread.
Throughout the latter half of 2021, health officials, institutions, and businesses introduced vaccine mandates as a way to try to increase vaccination rates. But with the Omicron variant causing surges across the U.S., many are now revisiting these earlier vaccine requirements. Omicron is currently estimated to account for more than 95 percent of new infections in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The variant is also more likely to evade the immunity induced by vaccination—particularly when that's limited to just one or two shots. Now, some officials are pushing for booster mandates to further prevent the spread of Omicron.
On Jan. 6, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced two new vaccine mandates for the state, which will require that many in the healthcare sector get additional doses. According to the two executive orders signed by Lamont, employees of all long-term care facilities and state hospitals in Connecticut must receive their COVID booster shot by Feb. 11.
"Some of the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 include those who live in long-term care facilities and receive services in our state hospitals, and we need to be doing everything we can to protect them from this virus," Lamont said in a statement.
"Nursing homes were particularly hard hit a year and a half ago, suffering real fatalities, and we can't let that happen again," he added during a press briefing, per the Hartford Courant.
According to the newspaper, only 31 percent of nursing home workers in Connecticut have been boosted so far, while 82 percent of eligible residents have been. Patrick Charmel, the president and CEO of Griffin Hospital, told the Hartford Courant that while booster rates for hospital healthcare workers vary by facility, the general range is from 35 to 50 percent.
"We know for a fact that the initial vaccinations significantly and immediately reduced the rate of hospitalizations and deaths that were occurring in these facilities. At the time, the staff of these facilities stepped up and did what was right to protect the residents for whom they were hired to care," Lamont said. "Now, we need to fight against the impacts of waning immunity, and that is why everyone who is able should get a booster shot."
Connecticut is not the first state to introduce this type of mandate amid the new, fast-spreading variant. Both New Mexico and California announced booster requirements in December, according to the Associated Press. New Mexico healthcare workers must receive a booster dose no later than Jan. 17, or within four weeks of becoming eligible for it. And roughly 2.5 million healthcare workers in California have until Feb. 1 to get their additional shot.
"The extremely rapid spread of Omicron underscores the fact that booster vaccinations are absolutely essential to protect our dedicated long-term care staff and, by extension, the most vulnerable Connecticut residents in skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care settings," Deidre S. Gifford, MD, Connecticut's social services commissioner whose agency administers Medicaid in the state, said in a statement.
But it's not just state officials making the move for booster requirements. Some of the first mandates for the additional dose came from various universities in the U.S., which are requiring faculty, staff, and students to be boosted in order to come back to campus for the spring semester. Institutions that have implemented this new policy include Boston University, the University of Notre Dame, and Stanford University, per Newsweek.
Several performing arts venues and groups in the U.S. will implement requirements for additional doses in 2022 as well. Both the Metropolitan Opera and the Playwrights Horizons theater in New York have already announced booster mandates for audience members. And multiple venues in Los Angeles will also require boosters. The Met Opera was one of the first major performing arts organizations to announce that it would be updating its vaccination policy with an audience booster requirement, set for Jan. 17, per The New York Times.
"We think we should be setting an example," Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, told the news outlet on Dec. 15. "Hopefully we will have an influence on other performing arts companies as well. I think it's just a matter of time—everyone is going to be doing this."