Yesterday, the University announced that Hopkins affiliates who work or study at its U.S. campuses will be required to get a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 booster shot by Feb. 1 Affiliates will need to upload documentation of their booster shot in the University’s Vaccine Management System. In interviews with The News-Letter, students expressed support for the mandate, and shared concerns about rising cases associated with the omicron variant.
Freshman Katherine Burdinger endorsed the new booster requirement in an email to The News-Letter.
“It's an extra precaution to keep everyone safe, which I think is what we have to continue to do as long as [COVID-19] is a danger,” she wrote.
University administrators noted in the broadcast that people are eligible for booster shots six months after receiving a second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, or two months after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. Affiliates who are not eligible for the booster on Feb. 1 will be required to receive their booster dose within two weeks of becoming eligible.
Junior JiWon Woo, an undergraduate representative on the University’s COVID-19 planning student advisory committee, explained why he feels this new policy is important.
“I believe that [the] booster mandate is very appropriate, given that JHU already [has] been mandating the first and the second doses of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine series,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “This effort is to preserve in-person delivery of the upcoming spring semester.”
University officials confirmed that the mandate was created with the spring semester in mind in their email.
“Emerging evidence has shown that immunity to COVID wanes over time, particularly against the omicron variant, but that booster shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine provide significant additional protection,” they wrote. “We believe this step will help prevent disruptions to our plans for an in-person spring semester.”
Less than 24 hours after issuing the booster mandate, Hopkins announced that the intersession 2022 term would be primarily virtual.
In an email to The News-Letter, Sophomore Class President Kobi Khong noted that he hopes the mandate will lead to safe public health conditions in the spring.
“I'm fully in support of the booster mandate, seeing all the news of omicron's spread is terrifying and I'm glad that the school is taking steps toward making sure we don't have a replay of Spring 2020 when we have to send everyone home without warning,” he wrote.
Members of the Teachers and Researchers United coordinating committee expressed support for the booster policy in an email to The News-Letter, though they feel the University could be doing more to ensure the health of its community.
“We also call on the university to do everything it can to ensure that graduate workers can receive their boosters on campus and to consider other COVID-19 mitigation measures, especially providing home testing kits and KN95/N95 masks to members of the JHU and Baltimore communities,” the members wrote. “As always, we ask the administration to reach out directly to graduate students as it formulates its health and safety protocols.”
According to the email, affiliates who work completely remotely are not subject to this requirement. Additionally, exemptions that the University granted to individuals for medical or religious reasons from the original vaccine policy are automatically applied to the booster shot requirement.
The broadcast included information on how to access booster doses, noting that they will be accessible through the University.
“Booster appointments can be made now through MyChart or at state and local vaccination sites and pharmacies,” the administrators wrote. “Additional on-campus clinics for boosters are in the process of being scheduled.”
Earlier this fall, the University reversed its decision to accept World Health Organization-approved vaccines, changing the vaccine policy to include only COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the administrators, individuals vaccinated with World Health Organization-approved vaccines only need to get an FDA-approved booster shot to remain compliant with the new University guidelines.
“Only one booster dose (either Pfizer or Moderna) is required for those individuals. This is a change from previous university policy (which required those with international vaccines to be revaccinated), based on emerging science related to the efficacy of boosters,” they wrote.
The email stated that individuals vaccinated with a World Health Organization-approved vaccine that is not FDA-approved are eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna booster shot immediately but may wait 28 days following their last vaccine dose.
The announcement comes amid a nationwide rise in COVID-19 cases. Last week, the University reported 120 COVID-19 cases among graduate students, 68 of which were linked to a cluster among School of Public Health students.
According to the most recent broadcast, COVID-19 numbers on campus have gone down, though administrators urged students to continue following public health guidelines.
“We are pleased to let you know that since last week’s cluster among graduate students, new cases have significantly declined, and we have not seen secondary transmission related to that incident,” they wrote.
“I want to make sure we can do everything we can to ensure that doesn't happen,” he wrote.
The administrators reminded individuals of the public health guidelines they should be following in addition to getting a COVID-19 booster.
“We urge you to take precautions to keep yourself and the community safe: Wear a mask, get tested regularly, monitor yourself for symptoms, avoid large gatherings (particularly indoors), and complete the Prodensity health check questions each day you’re on campus,” they wrote.