Over the past several days, Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University Maryland and McDaniel College have all announced that they will require their students to receive a booster COVID-19 shot in order to continue attending in-person classes in the new year. Hopkins and Loyola will also require faculty, staff and administrators to receive the jab.
The decisions come as the more-transmissible omicron variant of the virus sweeps the United States, causing a massive surge in cases and becoming the dominant strain among new cases.
All three universities are requiring those who are eligible for the shot and who do not have a medical or religious exemption to get the booster ahead of the spring 2022 semester.
Individuals become eligible for the COVID-19 booster shot six months after they receive their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months after they receive a Johnson & Johnson shot. In Maryland, all adults who meet one of those eligibility requirements have been allowed to receive the booster since Nov. 19.
The schools will each require students and employees to provide proof that they’ve received the booster. They also each clarified that if a student is not yet eligible for the booster, they will be required to get the shot once they become eligible.
“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. We believe this step will help prevent disruptions to our plans for an in-person spring semester,” said Hopkins’ Stephen Gange, executive vice provost for academic affairs, Jon Links, vice provost and chief risk officer, and Kevin Shollenberger, vice provost for student health and well-being and interim vice provost for student affairs, in an email to the campus community.
The universities have also announced additional steps they plan to take to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the coming semester. Loyola will require students to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they may be allowed to return to campus; rapid and at-home tests must have been taken within 48 hours of students arriving on campus, while PCR tests can be taken up to seven days before they arrive. Meanwhile, McDaniel chose to switch all of its January term classes to an online format.
Other Maryland universities, including Morgan State University, the state’s largest historically Black college or university, and the institutions 12 that make up the University System of Maryland, have yet to make announcements about whether they plan to mandate the booster shot.
In a recent announcement regarding safety over the holiday break, Morgan State President David Wilson encouraged students to get the booster if they are eligible and said the university would provide additional guidance for the spring semester at a later date.
“When the University reopens in January, we will be reassessing the situation and communicating our plans for the spring semester before the start of classes and will provide our community with enough time to adjust to our plans,” he said in the announcement. “One of the things that can be anticipated will be a requirement for all students returning to campus and moving into University housing to produce a negative COVID test result within 24 hours of moving in. More details will be forthcoming about this and other potential requirements for the spring semester.”
A number of USM institutions will also require testing to return to campus. Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Frostburg State University, Salisbury University, Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Maryland, College Park have all announced that campus community members will be required to take a COVID-19 test either prior to or just after returning to campus, with details varying by university.
None of these institutions has announced that it will require a booster shot. However, Salisbury announced that it will put extra testing requirements in place for students who haven’t received the booster; any student that received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna over eight months ago, or who received the Johnson & Johnson shot over 90 days ago, will be required to be tested twice weekly.
Towson’s announcement noted that the university may announce further guidance regarding boosters in the future.
“While TU has not announced plans to require boosters for those coming to campus, it is possible that they will be required prior to spring semester for those eligible,” it said.
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