By Tanisha Bhat and Lauren Rowlands
Boston University President Robert Brown announced in an email last Friday that the University will mandate all students, staff and faculty to receive a COVID-19 booster shot by Feb. 4, or as soon as they are eligible.
Three days later, Chief Health Officer Judy Platt sent out an email detailing health protocols for next Spring.
Platt announced students and faculty will no longer be required to take a daily COVID-19 symptom attestation, but that weekly testing and the indoor mask mandate, among other protocols, will remain in place for the time being.
The mandate follows growing concern over the potential impact of the new Omicron variant — the first case of which was detected in Massachusetts on Dec. 4 — and comes after other universities in the Boston area, such as Boston College, Northeastern University, Emerson College, Bentley University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced their own booster shot mandate.
Brown wrote the Feb. 4 deadline applies to those who are six months past completing their initial Moderna or Pfizer vaccination or two months past their Johnson & Johnson vaccination. Brown also added that those who are not yet eligible to receive a booster shot should do so as soon as they are able.
“Our judgment — based on the most current information and the advice of health professionals — continues to be that the best defense is vaccination,” Brown wrote in the email.
Members of the BU community are required to submit proof of vaccination through Patient Connect for students or the Occupational Health Connect Employee Portal for staff and faculty.
“We are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation — using our knowledge and experience with the Delta variant as a baseline — as new information becomes available. And we will adjust our planning as needed,” Brown wrote.
Students, faculty and staff will no longer need to speak with a Healthway nurse if they are presenting symptoms. Instead, Platt wrote they can schedule a symptomatic test online and present it at the Health Services Annex located behind Agganis Arena.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said it is because of this change that the University is removing the daily attestation requirement.
“People have done [the daily attestation] for quite some time and will know if they are not feeling well that they can schedule to go to a symptomatic test,” he said.
Riley also said he doesn’t believe the University will continue the green badge system for next semester.
Laura Zanvettor, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she agrees with BU’s decision to mandate a vaccine booster, especially given the spread of the novel Omicron variant.
“If the pharmacies have the doses, it’s totally fair for BU to ask for the vaccine,” Zanvettor said. “If they don’t…then I think they should solve that problem then require it.”
COM sophomore Jany Lim said she believes the booster shot mandate is important and will help curtail the rise in COVID-19 cases. She also added BU should provide opportunities for students staying on-campus over Winter Intersession to get a vaccine booster.
“I think it will definitely be helpful, and for students who are staying on campus or in Boston during break, it will help them or be easier way for them to get a COVID booster shot,” Lim said.
Platt wrote BU will be providing a limited number of booster shots at designated clinics on the Charles River campus this upcoming January, with more information to be announced in the near future.
As of now, she wrote, members of the BU community can get their booster shot at the Boston Medical Center Vaccination Clinic, located near the Medical Campus.
Tom Fischer, a first-year in the School of Law, said he already received his booster shot at BU’s Nov. 10 vaccination clinic, adding he agrees vaccinating the campus population is necessary, but thinks BU should discontinue its mask mandate.
“I think they’re playing in both ways,” Fischer said. “If they’re going to have a booster requirement, they shouldn’t have a mask mandate. I think you should choose one or the other.”
Rachel Neil, a freshman in the College of Communications, said she thinks the combination of BU’s booster and mask mandate will help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.
“Especially since we’re a private university, and we have over 30,000 students going here, the only way to stop having a breakthrough is to mandate masks and vaccines,” Neil said.