The University will require all students, staff, and faculty to receive a COVID-19 booster shot for the spring semester. President Michael Roth ’78 announced the requirement in an all-campus email on Tuesday, Nov. 23, writing that copies of updated vaccination cards should be uploaded to WesPortal by Friday, Jan. 14.
Students are required to receive both a COVID-19 booster shot and the flu vaccine to enroll for the spring semester. According to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines should wait at least six months after receiving their second dose to get a booster shot, while those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should wait at least two months. Students who are currently ineligible to receive a booster shot under the CDC guidelines must wait until they are eligible.
“It is natural to see waning immunity from any vaccine,” Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney wrote in an email to The Argus. “The booster will not only bring us back to the initial high level of immunity we had shortly after our initial series but as per Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the level of protection significantly exceeds it. Now that we are heading into the colder months that drive us all indoors increasing the transmission risk of viruses, it is so important to get one’s booster as soon as possible.”
As of Thursday, Dec. 2, 19 students and five employees have tested positive for COVID-19 on campus. The current on-campus positivity rate has decreased from the week before Thanksgiving break.
The Community Health Center (CHC) held a COVID-19 booster clinic with Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson boosters at Beckham Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 1, and will offer a second booster clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are 300 available slots for the Dec. 8 clinic that students can sign up for via the QR code on the flyer sent out in the all-campus email or through this form.
“Folks can [get] boosted with either the same vaccine as they originally received or get a different vaccine,” McLarney wrote. “Whatever decision one makes will be beneficial.”
Isha Jha ’23, who received a booster shot from the CHC clinic on Dec. 1, said that the clinic provided a convenient way for her to get the booster vaccine.
“I went back home for Thanksgiving and my parents both got their booster and I was gonna get a booster, but, for some reason, all of the appointments were full,” Jha said. “And so then I got the email saying that you could just take a booster at school and I got my first two doses at the Vine St. lot, so I just thought it was really convenient, and I know it’s the requirement and obviously I think it’s a really good idea given the waning effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Similarly, Andrew Park ’24 thought the CHC clinic would be easier than getting a booster shot at home, but found the wait time on Wednesday to be surprising.
“In terms of getting it at school, I think it [is] simpler that way than getting it at home,” Park said. “The appointment was very easy online. Unfortunately, there’s a long line right now, it’s like an hour wait. There’s only two people doing the vaccines. They said they’re getting more, so maybe it will get better, but right now…it’s a long wait.”
Daisy Montoya ’24 also emphasized the importance of receiving a booster shot despite inconveniences.
“I do want to stop the cases from rising,” Montoya said. “I do have family members who have passed away from COVID, so that’s another reason why, just making sure I do my part as well as encouraging my friends who get the booster to try to get back to as normal as possible…. It was kind of annoying right now since I did have my appointment at 12 [p.m.] and it is 1:40 [p.m.] The wait is really bad, but they said they’re trying to get more staff, so hopefully it gets better.”
Middlesex Health will also hold booster shot clinics at Middlesex Hospital (28 Crescent St.) from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16, and Friday, Dec. 17. Appointments are required and can be made through the Middlesex Health website.
Considering the issue from a broader public health perspective, McLarney once again emphasized that members of the Wesleyan community should receive both a booster vaccine and the flu shot.
“If we have a highly active flu season in addition to increased Covid infections, it can overwhelm the local health care systems,” McLarney wrote.
Even as the colder weather makes the COVID-19 situation on campus feel more precarious, Roth explained in his all-campus email that the University expects the fall semester to conclude as planned.
“With a fully vaccinated campus, and seeing no evidence of transmission in classrooms, we expect to finish the semester normally,” Roth wrote in the all-campus email. “We remain encouraged by and appreciative of the hard work of our students, faculty, and staff in following the protocols outlined on Keep Wes Safe and in the COVID Code of Conduct.”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at email@example.com.