As the Omicron variant surges, an increasing number of colleges and universities are mandating booster shots in the hope of keeping students and staff safe in 2022.
Studies showing that booster shots lead to a significant increase in antibodies and protect against potential infections have prompted institutions to require them by the end of next semester.
Announcements began last month when Michigan State, Georgetown, Yale, and Northwestern issued mandates requiring students, faculty, and staff to receive booster shots prior to returning for the spring semester.
“Boosters are likely to help prevent infection with Omicron, or at least cause more mild symptoms if you do get infected,” Professor of Medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, Richard Watkins, told health and wellness website Verywell.
Last month, a sharp spike in Omicron cases forced many colleges to readjust their fall plans and move classes and final exams online. Cornell, for example, declared a “red alert” after several students tested positive.
With Omicron spreading almost 70 times faster than the Delta variant, schools argue that boosters will protect against both infection and transmission.
Wesleyan University in Connecticut was the first higher education institution to require booster shots two days before Thanksgiving. Other schools, such as Syracuse, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, followed suit.
In New York, nearly 600,000 state university students will require proof of booster vaccinations, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last Friday — hours after the state shattered its daily COVID record. Hochul’s measures are part of a broader plan labeled “Winter Surge 2.0” to check the spread of infections in her state.
Some schools are also going a step further by setting up vaccination clinics. Hampshire College in Massachusetts and Skidmore College in New York hosted booster clinics to encourage students and employees to receive a third dose.
“The boosters are an important way that we can help keep ourselves and others safe during this pandemic,” associate dean of student affairs for health and wellness at Skidmore, Julia Routbort, said. “The strong turnout at the clinic again demonstrates the Skidmore community’s enduring commitment to the health and well-being of everyone on campus.”