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More Than 200 Santa Clara Co. Workers Disciplined After COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Deadline Passes

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – More than 200 Santa Clara County employees were disciplined after failing to meet the county's booster mandate deadline on Tuesday.

A county spokesperson said since the workers were notified, the number of those not in compliance has dropped. Many of them had not yet entered their booster information, had trouble inputting it or are now in the process of meeting the requirement.

None of the employees, the spokesperson said, have lost their jobs as of yet. But depending on their roles, they were placed on unpaid or paid leave.

The county workers under the mandate are those in the "highest-risk" category of becoming infected, and include correctional deputies, firefighters and healthcare workers. Among the highest number of those disciplined were Valley Medical Center employees; 171 had been in non-compliance as of Tuesday.

UCSF Prof. of Medicine and infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi said the booster mandates were likely put into place as the omicron variant drove record high surges.

But she pointed out that the CDC's definition of full-vaccination remains only receiving a vaccination series, and not a booster.

"Maybe people did not want to get boosted right after having an Omicron infection," Dr. Gandhi said. "It shouldn't have been mandated. I think it should be encouraged, just like the CDC is encouraging, but again a mandate is usually by the CDC definition and they are only requiring two doses."

As of Wednesday, a San Jose Fire spokesperson said 31 fire personnel under the "highest-risk category" booster mandate had not yet complied, and were not allowed to work in higher-risk settings after Feb. 1.

A firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous, told KPIX 5 they were first told they must start getting their vaccinations by Jan. 24, not complete them. By the time they received clarification, it was passed the deadline.

Now they're concerned they'll be without pay until they receive their second shot unless they use vacation time while they're out.

A county spokesperson said no one has lost their job yet, and that each case will be reviewed. If an employee takes the proper steps to follow the mandate, they'll be in good status with the county.

However, Dr. Gandhi argues the Omicron variant is a natural booster itself and the county's mandate is necessary.

"I think that the employees have every right to say, 'Let me show you the CDC web site right now, this is the definition," said Gandhi. "It's a fair question for someone to ask. Do I need another booster shot when I just got, kind of, a natural boost."

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