California State University faculty, students and staff will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine to use campus facilities during the spring 2022 term.
Students and staff will be required to get a booster dose by Feb. 28, or six months after they receive the last dose of their initial vaccine series, whichever comes later, the CSU chancellor’s office said.
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 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 research has found to be even more transmissible than previous variants.
While unvaccinated people continue to test positive for COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate on average to fully vaccinated people, health officials in recent weeks have said 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 university officials negotiate with unions representatives, according to Castro’s office.
The California Faculty Association — which represents professors and lecturers at all 23 CSU campuses — said in a statement 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 he had already gotten vaccinated.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of CSU’s students, faculty and staff,” Toombs said in a statement last week.
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, an estimated 427,000 CSU students and more than 50,000 employees had reported being fully vaccinated, equivalent to roughly 95% of students attending classes in person and 96% of faculty and staff.
Like the initial requirement, the booster vaccination mandate will include carveouts for students and staff who have documented medical or religious exemptions.
An estimated 4% of students and 3% of faculty and staff requested religious exemptions to the initial mandate and 1% of both groups sought medical exemptions.
Castro’s announcement came one day after University of California President 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.