More US unis introduce booster mandate for students

booster shot
At selected universities across the US, booster shots are mandatory for students on-campus. Source: Spencer Platt/AFP

For international students enrolled at some of the most prestigious universities in the US, their education may hang in the balance if they have not received their booster shot.

At Ivy League schools such as Cornell, students are required to receive a COVID booster by Jan. 31, 2022.

At Yale, all students who are eligible for COVID-19 booster shots are required to receive boosters before returning to campus for the spring semester. Additionally, all faculty and staff are expected to receive boosters as soon as they become eligible.

“Previously approved medical and religious COVID-19 vaccination exemptions will be honoured with regard to the booster requirement,” said Yale.

Meanwhile, the UC system announced that faculty, staff and students must obtain a booster shot as soon as they are eligible. “Students are reminded that compliance with the vaccination policy is a condition of being physically on campus,” said UC Berkeley.

Other universities, including New York University and Columbia, also have booster mandates for those who meet the criteria for eligibility.

booster shot

Many US universities are introducing a booster mandate for students. Source: Brett Deering/Getty Images/AFP

Stanford requires students to get booster shot

Stanford University is also among the US universities that have made a student booster shot requirement for students coming to campus. The university will accommodate students who cannot take the vaccine for medical or religious reasons, but they must request an exemption.

While the booster mandate is implemented on university grounds with good intentions, the news did not bode well with some students.

A petition was organised by Monte Fischer, a first-year management science and engineering PhD student against the university’s admission team to repeal the decision. Over 2,500 people signed the petition at the time of writing.

For international students like Diogo Braganca, not adhering to the booster mandate could have a severe affect on his enrolment and residency status in the US.

In an opinion piece in Newsweek, the Physics PhD student said he doesn’t feel compelled to take the booster shot and stated he would only do so under Stanford’s “coercive” mandate.

“This spring, Stanford instituted a requirement that all students be vaccinated or else face an ‘enrollment hold’ which restricts their ability to complete classes, progress on degrees, get financial aid or even live on campus,” he wrote.

“Though the university was not explicit, these restrictions on the unboosted amount to effective expulsion from the university.”

Braganca acknowledged that while the vaccine is safe for use with a relatively low risk of side effects, possible side effects from being injected with the COVID-19 vaccine such as myocarditis could be detrimental to young men such as himself.

He added that immunity provided by the COVID-19 vaccine is short-lived.

“The epidemiological evidence is overwhelming that vaccinated and COVID-recovered people like me have stronger immunity against reinfection and disease transmission than even vaccinated and boosted people who have never had COVID,” he wrote.

He added that if he doesn’t get his booster shot before April 15, 2022, he cannot enrol for the spring quarter and his J-1 visa will be automatically cancelled.

Booster shot

Over 2,500 people have signed a petition to repeal the booster mandate enforced by Stanford University. Source: Justin Sullivan/AFP

”It is painful to realise that my school is twisting my arm with the threat of visa cancellation while claiming that I am not forced to do anything. Many students will comply unwillingly with the mandate because they do not want to disrupt their future careers,” he enthused.

“For me and other international students, the consequences of not being injected with the booster are even higher. We, along with our families, face deportation – and Stanford knows it. It is time everybody knows it as well.”

Despite accusations that the booster mandate is coercive and unethical, a Stanford representative claimed the contrary, adding that the booster shot is implemented with good intentions.

“Our booster requirement is intended to support sustained immunity against COVID-19 and is consistent with the advice of county and federal public health leaders,” said Dr. Jim Jacobs, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director, Vaden Health Services, in a statement.

“Booster shots enhance immunity, providing additional protection to individuals and reducing the possibility of being hospitalised for COVID-19. In addition, booster shots prevent infection in many individuals, thereby slowing the spread of the virus.

“A heavily boosted campus community reduces the possibility of widespread disruptions that could impact the student experience, especially in terms of in-person classes and activities and congregate housing.”