In an email sent to the campus community on Dec. 8, the college announced that it will require all students, staff, and faculty eligible to receive a Covid vaccine booster shot to do so by Feb. 1, 2022. The decision follows three of the other Five Colleges — UMass Amherst, Hampshire College, and Smith College — who also decided to implement booster requirements for the spring semester.
The announcement comes on the heels of both the emergence of the Omicron variant and evidence of the decreasing effectiveness of Covid vaccines over time. “Getting the booster provides important additional protection for you, and our community, as we continue to navigate the uncertainty of Covid-19,” the email stated.
In the email, Dean of Students Liz Agosto, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein, and Chief Policy Officer Lisa Rutherford cited The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which have authorized and recommended everyone aged 18 or older receive a booster shot when they become eligible.
Eligibility for the booster shot is determined by the length of time that has elapsed since initial vaccination. Those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are eligible to receive a booster shot six months after their second shot, while those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible to receive a booster shot two months after their single shot. Individuals who will not be eligible to receive their booster by the February deadline are required to receive the shot as soon as they are eligible.
As with proof of vaccination, students will be required to submit documentation of their booster shot through the college’s patient portal, while faculty and staff must present proof of their booster at the Testing Center. Those who wish to request a medical or religious exemption should follow identical procedures as those for the original vaccine requirement.
The college held a booster clinic on Dec. 2 and is set to host another on Dec. 9. Partnerships with PelMeds Pharmacy, the clinics provide both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and allow individuals to “mix and match” shots, per CDC guidelines. Students participating in the booster clinics will not need to submit proof of their vaccination through the patient portal.
Dania Hallak ’24 is grateful that the college is presenting students an opportunity to get booster shots. “Back home in Boston it’s really hard to get boosters,” she said. “I think it’s good that the college is mandating vaccine booster shots. Even with fully vaccinated students there has been an increase in cases these past few weeks. Hopefully boosters will help maintain a safe campus and allow us to continue our education in the best manner possible.”
Audrey Rosevear ’22 noted, however, that the booster clinic is representative of global vaccine inequities. “[Around] 10 percent of the world population has received at least one dose and we’re getting a third?” she questioned. “The virus is much less likely to mutate at the rate it would spread in the U.S. without boosters than the rate it’s currently spreading in the rest of the world. Vaccinating other countries is not only an ethical imperative — it’s the only way we can reasonably beat this virus.”