Following booster shots recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some colleges are now requiring boosters for students and staff wanting to return to campus.
On Monday, the CDC doubled down on its recommendation on boosters, saying all adults should get a booster shot.
“Today, CDC is strengthening its recommendation on booster doses for individuals who are 18 years and older,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
“Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after their initial J&J vaccine,” Walensky said, adding that the emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, testifies to a Senate panel in Washington on Nov. 4, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, the first case of the Omicron variant in America was confirmed in California.
On Wednesday, University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy announced that the university requires all students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.
“The vaccine booster, combined with the advance testing explained below, and ongoing wastewater testing, adaptive testing, convenient voluntary testing options, and our indoor mask requirement represent a comprehensive approach to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safe and successful spring for our community,” Subbaswamy said in an email to students.
The university will continue indoor masking requirements, but this will be reviewed later, the email stated.
Some universities initiated a booster requirement earlier, doing so when the CDC expanded its recommendation of booster shots to include all adults—18 years and older on Nov. 19. Previously, CDC only recommended boosters to 65 years and older or those younger but with underlying medical conditions.
On Nov. 23, Wesleyan University—a 3,200-student university located in Connecticut—announced that the university is requiring all students, staff, and faculty to get the booster shots by Jan. 14.
“Vaccine booster shots are now available, and they offer an important additional layer of protection,” the university’s president Michael Roth said in a statement.
The St. Joseph’s College of Maine announced as early as Oct. 4 that the school would require boosters. The Catholic college said the requirement would be implemented “on a rolling basis—as boosters become available, and as the list of recommended recipients expands.”
As of Wednesday, the school has a 99 percent vaccination rate and a 56 percent booster rate. The school said that the indoor mask requirement would be lifted when an 85 percent booster rate is reached.
More colleges are still considering whether to require boosters. Some colleges choose to “strongly” recommend it instead of requiring it for now.
The University of Rochester said in an updated guidance Monday that it is not requiring students, faculty, and staff to receive a booster, but “it is strongly encouraged.”
Duke University and Harvard University also “strongly” encourage everyone eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster.
A nurse fills up syringes for patients as they receive their COVID-19 booster vaccination during a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Mich., on Sept. 29, 2021. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)
Some experts don’t think there’s a need for young people to get a boost, especially young males.
Jeremy Faust, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, sent a letter to CDC’s director in October, saying based on his analysis, for males ages 18-29, it seems that third doses of Pfizer are likely to cause more hospitalizations (due to myocarditis) than they will prevent (from COVID-19 breakthrough cases) in the coming 6 months.
But CDC expanded eligibility for boosters to include people 18 years and older on Nov. 19 and further on Nov. 29.
Gerri Taylor, the co-chair of the American College Health Association’s COVID-19 task force, said if CDC updates its definition of fully vaccinated to include booster shots, then “colleges might be more apt to require it.” Inside Higher Ed reported.
The association has recommended that colleges require COVID-19 vaccination but hasn’t recommended requiring boosters yet.
During Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that currently, the definition of fully vaccinated doesn’t include a booster, but it could change.
“We don’t know right now whether it should change, but it might,” Fauci added.