MONTPELIER — The governor is encouraging school districts to mandate coronavirus vaccines for teachers and staff.

At his regular news conference Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott said starting Wednesday, all state employees under the executive branch will have to attest to vaccination or submit to weekly testing and wear a mask while working. This vaccine mandate is expected to affect about 8,500 workers. A similar mandate went into effect Sept. 1 for corrections workers and those at the Vermont Veterans Home and the state psychiatric hospital.

Scott said this change will help make workplaces safer and encouraged other employers to institute their own such mandate.

The Biden administration has announced it will require employers with 100 or more employees to have a vaccine mandate as part of the requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Scott said he’s asked for clarity to see if school workers fall under those OSHA requirements.

The governor said because there is no longer a state of emergency in place, he cannot issue a vaccine mandate for school workers.

“But I encourage school districts, who are the employers, to use the state as a model and take a similar approach,” he said.

Scott was on his weekly call with other governors and the White House about the pandemic response prior to Tuesday’s news conference. The governor said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported on that call that the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory committee will meet Friday to discuss a third vaccine shot, referred to as a booster shot, for those who received the Pfizer vaccine.

He said booster shots for those who received the vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are expected at a later date. Currently, Pfizer’s is the only vaccine to have received full FDA approval while the other two vaccines remain under emergency use authorization in the United States.

Scott said the FDA will need to make a decision based on what its committee finds before the CDC will issue its recommendation allowing for the booster shot.

He said studies are currently underway looking at the safety and effectiveness of one person receiving vaccines from more than one manufacturer, described as “mixing and matching,” and recommendations are expected soon.

Mike Smith, secretary of the state Agency of Human Services, said state officials have already started planning the rollout for booster shots. Smith said health care workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities are expected to be the first eligible for the third doses.

He said residents will need to make an appointment for a third dose once it’s available to the public. Smith said those appointments can’t be made now. The secretary said he expects more details once the federal government issues its guidance for booster shots.

eric.blaisdell

@timesargus.com

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