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Are COVID-19 vaccine boosters included in OSHA vaccine mandates?

OSHA has hit pause on Emergency Temporary Standards after a U.S. District Court ruled they could not yet be put in place.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suspended a vaccine and testing mandate set to go into effect in January.

After a Fifth District Court ruling to put the mandate on hold, questions started rising whether booster shots of a COVID-19 vaccine would be included in any mandates. 

"We're really just working on those first two shots," Karen Vladeck, an employment attorney at Wittliff Cutter, said. "Right now, that [Emergency Temporary Standards] does require full vaccination, which under CDC guidelines is two shots, particularly because boosters have not yet been applied to all individuals. I don't see boosters coming into the equation at all any time in the next six to eight months."

The OSHA ETS would not go into effect until Jan. 4 and only last for six months. The employer vaccine mandate calls for businesses with more than 100 workers to require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or wear masks and be tested weekly for COVID-19. Exemptions are provided for religious reasons and for those who work at home or only outdoors. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have been fighting federal vaccine mandates for government contractors and health care workers as well. 

RELATED: Gov. Abbott challenges OSHA COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate in U.S. appeals court

Boosters for COVID-19 vaccines have been made available for qualifying groups. The third shot is expected to bring a person's antibody level up to the point it was after they had their second dose, but it may depend on individual response, according to health care leaders.

"It is not clear exactly what's going to happen with the ETS," Vladeck said. "While we wait for the ETS itself to wind its way through the court systems, employers are faced with either that Jan. 4 deadline where the ETS has to be implemented and the requirements of vaccine or tests must be implemented or wait to see if they're required to do it. And so for big employers, they don't have the chance to wait until Jan. 4 if they have to act now, even if the ETS will ultimately not apply to them."

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