Nearly three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of top colleges and universities are mandating students receive the latest COVID-19 bivalent booster, despite a national trend away from such requirements.
A slew of institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, Tufts University, Harvard University, Yale University, and Fordham University, has brandished iterations of a booster mandate, Fox News reported. Critics have argued that such requirements are overly heavy-handed, while advocates say the close congregations of students necessitate a mandate.
“[Mandates] may result in a net harm to healthy young adults,” an essay published earlier this year in the Journal of Medical Ethics contended, before adding they may “violate the reciprocity principle because serious vaccine-related harms are not reliably compensated due to gaps in vaccine injury schemes; and … may result in wider social harms.”
A spokesperson for Yale University, which is demanding students receive the bivalent booster by the beginning of the spring semester, defended the move.
“We are requiring students to receive the bivalent booster because their circumstances are somewhat different from those of faculty and staff, especially with regard to congregate housing and participation in large gatherings.” The spokesperson noted that students can “seek an exemption from the booster requirement on medical or religious grounds.”
When the COVID-19 outbreak first struck, many college campuses were forced into remote learning due to the rampant spread of the virus. After vaccines became available, many of those institutions demanded that students get vaccinated before returning to campus.
At that time, some states, municipalities, portions of the federal government, and private businesses began enacting vaccine mandates. However, many of those entities have begun to scrap their vaccine mandates. Recently, Republicans have championed repealing the vaccine mandate for military personnel as part of the National Defense Bill.
The bivalent booster shot is designed to provide protection against strains of the COVID-19 virus, including some that previously ripped through protection provided by the original vaccine. Medical officials have been rolling out the new booster shot since the end of the summer.
An estimated 85.1% of the general public ages five and older in the United States have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but that figure plunges to a meager 13.5% for the updated bivalent booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of cases remains about two times lower than it was at this point last year around the onset of omicron, per Our World in Data. Deaths also remain dramatically lower than last year, though health officials have warned that there could be a winter surge similar to the prior two years of the pandemic.