Regina Sung, Photo Editor

The University will require all eligible students to receive a COVID-19 booster shot before returning to campus for the spring semester, according to University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler. Faculty and staff are expected to receive the booster as soon as they become eligible.

Spangler announced the measure in a Friday email to the Yale community, which comes as the University continues to see a surge in cases following the November recess, with 49 positive cases recorded in the seven-day period between Dec. 9 and 15. Earlier this week, Yale administrators told the News that the Omicron variant had been detected on campus, but Yale has forged ahead with in-person finals, even as other universities have moved them online. Some of Yale’s peer institutions, such as Harvard, Princeton and Brown, have announced similar booster mandates, with Harvard’s announcement released yesterday. 

“Infections with COVID-19 continue to rise in the state and across much of the nation,” Spangler wrote in the email. “On our campus, numbers of infections remain high with no evidence of workplace or classroom transmission. … The promising news is that boosters of currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines not only bolster waning immunity to the Delta variant but also appear to provide protection from becoming ill with the Omicron variant.”

The University’s vaccine program will expand booster availability through Dec. 22 for those who wish to receive their booster before the winter recess, Spangler wrote. Students who have received medical or religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will not have to receive a booster, but must continue with twice-weekly testing and other mitigation measures.

The “small number” of students who are not yet eligible for a booster shot — because they are less than six months out from their second Moderna or Pfizer dose or less than two months out from the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — may return to campus in the spring but must receive their booster shot within seven days of becoming eligible, according to Spangler.

The booster requirement comes as the University has implemented measures to stop the ongoing spread of the virus on campus. In particular, Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd announced Thursday that residential college dining halls, Commons, the Elm and the Bow-Wow would transition to grab-and-go meal service only for the remainder of the semester, beginning Thursday evening. Still, Yale students will go ahead with in-person finals, some of which will bring up to 500 students together in a lecture hall over the coming days.

Students also received an email Wednesday afternoon from Madeline Wilson, the director of the Yale COVID-19 Testing and Tracing Program, announcing that students must receive a COVID-19 test within 24 to 48 hours of their return to campus in January, and continue the current twice-weekly testing schedule for the first two weeks of the spring semester.

By mandating vaccines, Yale joins other Ivy League universities, including Harvard and Brown who announced their mandates earlier this week. Cornell, despite sending students home and moving finals online after recording over 400 student cases in a week, has yet to announce a booster requirement for its students. 

The first case of the Omicron variant in Connecticut was reported in Hartford County on Dec. 4. In a previous conversation with the news, on Dec. 15, Dean of the Yale School of Public Health Sten Vermund said that “a half dozen” cases have been detected in Yale New Haven Hospital, which does not test samples from the Yale community. 

In her email, Spangler wrote that studies increasingly indicate that Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant and might be more resistant to vaccines than earlier variants.
The University announced a shift from “green” to “yellow” COVID-19 alert level on Dec. 1, indicating “low to moderate risk” of COVID-19 on campus.

Philip Mousavizadeh covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously covered the Jackson Institute. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics