Emory University will require all students, faculty and staff to receive the COVID-19 booster vaccination shot before returning for the spring 2022 semester, University President Gregory Fenves announced on Dec. 16. The deadline for receiving the shot is Jan. 19.

“The booster is the next step in an evolving public health strategy that has seen us adapt to every new development in the pandemic to continue the learning, teaching, and discovery that define Emory,” Fenves wrote in an email to the Emory community.

(Creative Commons/wuestenigel)

COVID-19 booster shots are additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that are administered after immunity from the initial shots has decreased. Data from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna has shown that booster shots “increased the immune response in trial participants.”

Any person over 16 years old is eligible for a booster shot two months after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine or six months following the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. If a person is not eligible for a booster by the Jan. 19 deadline, they can report the booster at a later date, but within two weeks of getting the shot, the email stated.

Students can start uploading their booster documentation to the Student Health Services Portal on Dec. 20. Faculty and staff will have to complete an online form that can be found on the Emory Forward page beginning Jan. 6 to indicate their booster status. 

Individuals who have previously been approved for a vaccine exemption do not need to take any additional actions. 

Amir St. Clair is the Associate Vice President and Executive Director for COVID-19 Response and Recovery for Emory University. (Emory University)

Associate Vice President and Executive Director for COVID-19 Response and Recovery Amir St. Clair told the Wheel in a Dec. 16 email that the University has “closely monitored” the COVID-19 pandemic and that this decision was made based on expert medical advice and in the “best interest of our community’s health and safety.”

“While Emory University’s COVID-19 case numbers remain low, the national rise in Omicron variant cases, emerging public health guidance, and challenges currently facing other institutions have signaled the need to take a proactive step and use the upcoming winter break to get our campus community boosted,” St. Clair wrote to the Wheel.  

The Omicron variant has been reported in 28 states as of Dec. 15, including Georgia. 

Over the past 14 days, COVID-19 infections have increased 59% in the state and 109% in DeKalb County. In the past 10 days, 22 students and 16 faculty and staff members tested positive, according to the University COVID-19 dashboard.

As of Dec. 16, 97.9% of students and 96.8% of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated. According to the dashboard, a person is fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose of an approved vaccine. The definition currently does not mention booster shots.

“Vaccines remain critical in our fight against COVID-19, and COVID-19 booster shots are an important, effective line of defense to promote public health, especially in response to the Omicron variant,” St. Clair wrote.