Faculty and staff not required to receive new booster shot
In a change in University COVID-19 policy, Yale will not require faculty or staff to receive a second bivalent booster shot. The policy shift has received mixed reactions from the Yale community.
Jessai Flores, Illustrations Editor
While students will be required to get a second booster shot before returning for spring semester, the same mandate will not apply to faculty and staff.
Announced Oct. 27, the booster shot requirement was directed towards undergraduate, graduate and professional students in line with CDC recommendations. In order to be considered “up to date” via CDC guidelines, one must receive a primary vaccine series along with the “bivalent” booster. The new booster protects against both the original virus and several variant strains of the COVID-19 virus, which has “changed over time.” Yet faculty and staff are not required to be “up to date” in order to work in the spring.
“We are strongly encouraging faculty and staff to receive the bivalent booster, but are not changing the current vaccination requirements in place for faculty and staff,” University COVID-19 coordinator Stephanie Spangler wrote in an email to the News.
Spangler echoed the words of University President Peter Salovey, who justified the decision to the News by explaining that faculty and staff live in different conditions from students.
“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,” Salovey wrote in an email to the News.
He added that students may seek an exemption from the booster requirement on medical or religious grounds.
Richard Martinello, who serves as professor of infectious diseases and medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital, told the News that the updated vaccine has an “excellent” safety profile and that COVID-19 remains a “significant threat.”
Yale had previously mandated an original COVID-19 vaccine series for faculty, staff and postdoctoral trainees for those returning to the University in August 2021. Last December, the University required faculty and staff to receive a booster shot as soon as they were eligible.
Administrators deciding whether to require such vaccinations for faculty and staff must navigate a tense balance of priorities.
Last year, University Provost Scott Strobel told the News that whenever the University makes a vaccine mandate, it weighs legal questions surrounding personal choice and employee compliance along with employee responsibility to ensure community health. The University also holds several negotiated agreements with unions, which makes it more difficult to mandate such changes to university policy, including vaccines.
Faculty voiced mixed reactions to the change in policy.
Sterling Professor of Chemistry William Jorgensen reasoned that faculty, unlike students, tend not to eat in groups or attend parties in large social settings.
English professor Katie Trumpener, who is immunocompromised, told the News that she was “aware” of how crucial large-scale vaccination is to “keeping everyone as safe as possible.” It would be optimal if everyone was getting up-to-date vaccines, according to Trumpener, but she appreciated that Yale did a “good job” making booster shots available to faculty and students early on during the pandemic.
Sterling Professor of Theater Joseph Roach told the News that he believes the new booster shot should be required for faculty and staff.
“Fighting smallpox as well as the British, George Washington ordered the mass inoculation of the Continental Army in 1777,” Roach told the News. “It worked. What’s the problem now?”
According to Scientific American, only 5 percent of eligible Americans had received a new booster shot by the end of October.