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California to require COVID booster shot for health care workers

In a statement posted to Twitter, Governor Gavin Newsom cited the rise of the omicron variant in the state as the reason for the booster requirement.

CALIFORNIA, USA — California will require COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all healthcare workers, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.

In a statement posted to Twitter, he cited the rise of the omicron variant in the state. Omicron is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the country, according to federal health officials.

"With Omicron on the rise, we’re taking immediate actions to protect Californians and ensure our hospitals are prepared," Newsom said in a tweet.

The governor's official Twitter account also shared the information saying "omicron is spreading quickly." 

"We are stepping up our efforts to not only get people vaccinated but also get people boosted," Newsom added in a video message. 

"Today we're moving forward to require all health care workers to boosted, to get that third shot or at least the second if they got the J&J."

Newsom is now joining New Mexico, as California becomes the second state in the nation to require its health care workers be boosted.

Since September, the Golden State has mandated that its health care workers be fully vaccinated: a move that's led to thousands of workers statewide being either fired or suspended.

"We support the governor's decision, because our health care workers have been on the front lines doing amazing work," said Lupe Flores of the SanDiego Latino Health Coalition, pointing out the powerful protection provided by the booster shot against getting seriously ill from COVID, for health care workers as well as the general public.

"We are all in it together, so we can continue fighting the fight and keeping our communities safe and healthy," she told News 8.

In fact, a study released by Moderna this week finds that its booster provides a 37-fold increase in antibodies against the omicron variant, compared to its two dose regimen.

This comes as a separate study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found those who have not received a vaccine dose are 31 times more likely to test positive than those who are vaccinated, with a booster.

Experts said this week, a surge of omicron is hitting San Diego and is expected to increase heading into the new year. Doctors worry about the effect the new cases will have on the health care system. 

“Unfortunately, these huge spikes in cases are already taking out some of our health care workers and other critical employees and infrastructure and so this is going to be a real problem as we see fewer and fewer health care workers who are healthy enough to go to work," Dr. Chris Longhurst, Chief Medical Officer at UC San Diego Health told News 8.

The state's booster announcement came the same day President Joe Biden addressed the nation about omicron and announced 500 million free rapid tests to be distributed to Americans beginning in January. Biden also said there would be increased support for hospitals and a redoubling of vaccination and boosting efforts.

In his speech Tuesday, Biden announced major changes to his COVID-19 winter plan, saying his hand forced by the arrival and rapid spread of the omicron variant, whose properties are yet not fully understood by scientists.