Booster shot requirement goes into effect amid COVID-19 surge

PCR test samples collected at the Testing Center are pictured on Feb. 11. Elin Shih / The Tufts Daily
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Tufts’ COVID-19 booster shot requirement for students, faculty and staff went into effect on Feb. 15. As announced on Dec. 16, 2021, all community members who were eligible to get a booster shot before Jan. 15 are expected to have uploaded proof of their additional vaccination, or documentation of a valid medical or religious accommodation, to the online health portal.

Eligible individuals include anyone over the age of 12 who has received their two-dose vaccination series five or more months ago or a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago.

Compliance with the booster requirement among eligible individuals has not been an issue so far, according to University Infection Control Health Director Michael Jordan. 

“The university community has been excellent in meeting its obligations to be vaccinated and boosted. Compliance is very high,” Jordan wrote in an email to the Daily. “We have needed to make very few accommodations for those seeking medical or religious exemptions.”

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The university offered a series of booster shot clinics to help eligible community members more easily receive their booster shot. Claire Ammirato got her booster shot through a clinic offered at Tufts before winter break. She initially had some difficulty in learning about when the clinics were offered.

“I had tried myself to … look online to see if they were having booster shot clinics at the testing center and I could not find any information,” Ammirato, a sophomore said. “It wasn’t super clear that [clinics] were happening. But I got it nonetheless.” 

Community members who are eligible but have not received a booster shot or uploaded the appropriate documentation may face consequences now that the deadline has passed.

Per university policy, students without documentation of having received a booster shot or having a valid medical or religious accommodation will be considered noncompliant with the university’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, and we will be addressing them individually,” Jordan wrote. “Staff who do not comply with this policy can be subject to unpaid leave, suspension, or other disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

Ammirato found uploading documentation to the online portal to be straightforward, particularly after receiving a reminder email.

“I happened to see the email that [said], ‘make sure to upload it,’ and then I did,” Ammirato said. “I don’t think it’s that much of a hassle. I think especially when you’re dealing with healthcare and medicine, everything has to be documented. [The portal upload is] just a better way to make sure everyone has documentation on getting a booster no matter where they got it.”

Certain COVID-19 guidelines have evolved during the spring semester, such as the recent decrease in student testing cadence. Jordan noted that the university seeks to prioritize health and safety when policies change.

The deadline for compliance came as the Tufts community experienced a wave of COVID-19 cases, including its largest single-week case numbers so far. Demand for isolation housing for students who test positive exceeded the operational capacity of The Mods.

Occupancy has gone up and down according to fluctuations in the rates of positivity within our community,” Marie Caggiano, medical director of Health Service, wrote in an email to the Daily. “The Mods effectively became full on [Feb. 14], which is when we began using one of our off-site isolation sites, the Homewood Suites in Arlington.”

Considering the current spread of COVID-19 on campus, Caggiano asks that students remain observant of current university protocols.

“We are hopeful that the current surge abates soon,” Caggiano wrote. “To reach that goal, we need our community members to be vigilant about wearing masks indoors, which is critical to stopping transmission.”

Jordan also emphasized the importance of mask wearing for individuals recently released from isolation housing.

“Mask wearing works and is critically important right now,” Jordan wrote. “If you recently tested positive for COVID and completed your isolation, it is especially imperative that you wear a mask around others.”

The university is still assessing whether to offer additional booster shot clinics for those who were not yet eligible for their booster shot in time for the deadline.

“Individuals who are eligible after January 15, 2022 will have 30 days from their date of eligibility to comply with this policy”, Jordan wrote. “We are currently assessing the needs of the community given that there is a rolling deadline.”

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