San Jose businesses, leaders push for COVID shots after FDA approval
Agricultural worker Jose Villanueva received his COVID-19 vaccine at Monterey Mushrooms in Morgan Hill on Cesar Chavez Day. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

San Jose business and political leaders hope holdouts in the city will finally get vaccinated following the FDA’s approval of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine earlier this week.

On Monday, the FDA officially endorsed Pfizer’s vaccine. Some businesses were waiting for full FDA approval to feel comfortable mandating vaccinations for their employees, said Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“I’m very hopeful those who said they would wait for full approval… will come to get vaccinated,” Tong said.

According to Santa Clara County, 131,272 positive COVID infections and 1,721 deaths have occurred since the start of the pandemic. About 86.5% of residents age 12 and up are vaccinated with at least one dose, and 80.9% are fully vaccinated. The current seven day average of new positive infections is 347.

San Jose already requires city employees to provide proof of vaccination or weekly negative COVID tests, but private businesses are not required to mandate vaccines for their employees. Jesus Flores, executive director of the Latino Business Foundation Silicon Valley, said many businesses were hesitant to require employees to get vaccinated because of anticipated pushback.

“Now they will be more confident to say, ‘This is an FDA approved vaccine, so you need to have it in order to come back to work,’” Flores told San José Spotlight. “Many employers will be able to mandate their employees get vaccinated.”

San Jose this week approved requiring attendees and event workers to show proof of immunization at city-owned venues with 50 or more people, such as the SAP Center, McEnery Convention Center and historic theaters.

San Jose has not gone quite as far as San Francisco when it comes to requiring proof of vaccination. On Aug. 12, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that private businesses with high-contact indoor areas like bars, restaurants, clubs, theaters and entertainment venues must obtain proof of vaccination from their patrons and employees to enter. This includes concertgoers at Chase Center and fans of the Warriors.

“I would imagine there are probably some customers out there who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “If they want to go see a concert or a Warriors game… maybe this will be the incentive for them to finally get it.”

Knies said some downtown bars in San Jose already require patrons to show proof they’re vaccinated. Haberdasher, Paper Plane and 55 South require proof of vaccination to come inside, which may affect their bottom line.

“It’s hard to tell if the vaccine requirement or just the general COVID slump is what has affected business,” said Haberdasher owner Cache Bouren. “But we are not up to pre-COVID revenue levels.”

Bouren received threatening emails for implementing this policy, and Haberdasher’s Yelp page was removed because of one-star reviews from irate customers. He said he isn’t sure if the FDA’s full approval of the vaccine will change anything.

“The folks that are glad to have gotten the vaccine will still be around,” Bouren told San José Spotlight. “And the nutters and internet trolls will find another reason to not get the vaccine.”

Maritza Maldonado, executive director of Amigos de Guadalupe, said having FDA approval of a COVID vaccine will hopefully be the game-changer people are waiting for in East San Jose—an area disproportionately affected by COVID. East San Jose’s Si Se Puede Collective is encouraging people to get vaccinated at pop-ups or Gardner Health Center on Alum Rock Avenue, she said.

“We have lost way too many people in our community,” Maldonado said. “Our neighbors are no longer walking the streets or attending church with us. We need our community well and healthy and able to live in community with each other.”

Tong said now is the time to get vaccinated before providers fill up with residents anxious to get their booster shots. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA recommend people receive a COVID booster shot eight months after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Health care workers, nursing home residents and seniors are prioritized to get their boosters first.

“By getting vaccinated this week, one could get their first and second dose in before those booster shots start in mid to late September,” Tong said, adding that additional locations may open to provide booster shots.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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